Talcum powder is a seemingly harmless over-the-counter product used by many consumers to prevent rashes and keep skin free of moisture. However, mounting research shows that Johnson & Johnson’s popular baby powder and Shower-to-Shower absorbent body powder, as well as all other talcum powder products on the market in the United States, may actually be tied to an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who use the powders in their genital area for personal hygiene purposes. If you have used J&J talcum powder or another type of talc-based body powder, and you have since been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease like ovarian cancer, contact a reputable attorney in your area to discuss your legal options. You may have grounds to file a product liability lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, in order to seek fair and timely reimbursement for your losses.
As talcum powder is applied, talc particles become airborne and, when inhaled, can cause coughing, wheezing and, in some cases, a condition called talcosis, characterized by acute or chronic lung irritation. Talc-based powders marketed as body powders or feminine hygiene products have also been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer and other major side effects in women, caused by the talc particles traveling through the vagina, into the uterus and along the fallopian tubes to the ovaries. As a result, many women and parents are seeking safer and effective alternatives to talcum powder for infants and personal hygiene purposes, including the following natural products:
According to the American Cancer Society, talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral composed mainly of the elements silicon, magnesium and oxygen. As a powder, talc absorbs moisture well and helps cut back on friction, which makes it a useful product for keeping skin dry and preventing rashes. Because of its benefits, talc is widely used in a variety of consumer products, including baby powder and adult body and facial powders. In its natural form, some talc may contain asbestos, a dangerous substance known to cause a deadly type of cancer called mesothelioma when inhaled or ingested. However, all home-use talcum powders in the United States have been asbestos-free since the use of asbestos was widely restricted in the 1970s.
Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that arises from the cells of the ovary, most commonly the lining cells of the ovary. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer symptoms are very vague and there are currently no good screening tests for the disease. The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
Although talc that contains asbestos is no longer available on the market, new research indicates that individuals who use talcum powder may still be at risk for cancer, namely ovarian cancer in women. Most concerns about a potential link between talcum powder and cancer come in these two forms:
Studies have suggested that talcum powder might play a role in the development of ovarian cancer if the powder particles (applied to the genital area, or on condoms, sanitary napkins or diaphragms) travel through the vagina, uterus and fallopian tubes to the ovaries. Numerous studies have examined the possible connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, and a federal jury in South Dakota ruled in October 2013 that a woman’s use of Johnson & Johnson products that contained talcum over the course of 30 years contributed to her ovarian cancer.
October 2013 – A South Dakota jury rules against J&J in a lawsuit brought by a 56-year-old woman who developed ovarian cancer after using Shower-to-Shower body powder for three decades.
May 2014 – A class action lawsuit is filed on behalf of residents of Missouri who purchased talc-based baby powders during the previous five years, due to allegations that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn about the potential risk of ovarian cancer among women who use the powder for personal hygiene purposes.
May 2014 – A class action lawsuit is filed in Illinois, alleging that J&J continued marketing its talc-based baby powder as a safe and effective product for use among infants and women, despite growing concerns about the potential for talcum powder products to cause ovarian cancer.
May 2014 – A class action lawsuit is filed in California against Johnson & Johnson, seeking to force the company to provide adequate warnings to consumers about the possible health risks associated with the company’s talcum powder products.
June 2014 – A woman files a lawsuit against J&J for failing to warn consumers that its Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower talcum powder products can increase the risk of ovarian cancer in women.
October 2014 – A lawsuit involving 65 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder for feminine hygiene purposes is remanded back to state court in Missouri.
November 2014 – A wrongful death lawsuit is brought against J&J on behalf of a woman who developed ovarian cancer after using a talc-based body powder.
January 2015 – A federal judge in Missouri rules that Johnson & Johnson will face charges of conspiring to conceal the side effects of talcum powder in a lawsuit filed by the husband of a woman who died from ovarian cancer.
May 2015 – Colgate-Palmolive Co. is ordered to pay $13 million in damages to a woman who used an asbestos-containing talcum powder cosmetic product called “Cashmere Bouquet,” and was diagnosed with mesothelioma 40 years later.
October 2015 – Complaints involving 237 women who used talcum powder products and subsequently developed ovarian cancer have been sent back to state court in Missouri, after J&J lost a bid to transfer the cases to federal court.
June 2015 – The health news organization FairWarning reports that approximately 700 women have filed lawsuits over ovarian cancer allegedly caused by talc-based body powders.
February 2016 – A St. Louis jury awards $72 million in damages to the family of an Alabama woman who died from ovarian cancer after using J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talcum powders for 35 years.
May 2016 – A 62-year-old South Dakota woman is awarded $55 million in a talcum powder lawsuit alleging ovarian cancer from use of J&J talcum powder for more than 40 years.
August 1993 – The Acting Associate Commissioner for Legislative Affairs of the Department of Health and Human Services states the following: “We are aware that there have been reports in the medical literature [of a link] between frequent direct female perineal talc dusting over a protracted period of years, and an incremental increase in the statistical odds of subsequent development of certain ovarian cancers…[However] at the present time, the FDA is not considering to ban, restrict or require a warning statement on the label of talc containing products.”
November 1994 – The Cancer Prevention Coalition petitions the FDA to issue a warning regarding the perineal use of talcum powder, due to the risk of ovarian cancer side effects. The petition is denied by the FDA, despite the fact that it is supported by 15 scientific publications.
1997 – Senator Edward Kennedy issues a statement to the Senate requesting that the FDA include a cancer warning on the label of talc-based products.
May 2008 – A large coalition of groups led by the Cancer Prevention Coalition submits a petition to the FDA, requesting that an ovarian cancer warning be added to talc-based body powders and other products.
March 2014 – The FDA updates information about the health risks allegedly associated with talcum powder on its website, indicating that “Talc is an ingredient used in many cosmetics, from baby powder to blush. From time to time, FDA has received questions about its safety and whether talc contains harmful contaminants, such as asbestos.” However, the FDA has yet to issue an official warning about the risk of ovarian cancer from talcum powder.
1971 – Researchers establish a potential connection between the dusting of female genitals with talc-based powder and a risk of ovarian cancer, indicating that particles of talc were deeply embedded in a majority of ovarian tumors.
July 1982 – The journal Cancer publishes a study linking the use of talcum powder to an increased risk of ovarian cancer, supporting the findings of previous research.
July 1992 – A woman’s frequent use of talcum powder on her genitals increases her risk of ovarian cancer by threefold, finds a study published in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.
September 1995 – The International Journal of Cancer reports in a case-control study involving more than 1,600 women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer in Australia between August 1990 and December 1993, that the use of talc in the abdominal or perineal region is positively associated with the occurrence of ovarian cancer.
June 1997 – The journal Cancer reports that exposure to talc may increase the risk of ovarian carcinoma in women.
May 1999 – A study published in the International Journal of Cancer finds that “there is a significant association between the use of talc in genital hygiene and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer that […] warrants more formal public health warnings.”
2000 – The Journal of the National Cancer Institute publishes research indicating that “perineal talc use may modestly increase the risk of invasive serious ovarian cancer” in women.
March 2003 – The use of talcum powder of female genitals increases the risk of ovarian cancer by about 30%, according to a study published in the journal Anticancer Research.
August 2005 – A study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology finds that, in patients with ovarian and cervical tumors, there were talc particles embedded within the tumor tissue. The researchers involved in the study draw attention to the close association of talc to the asbestos group of minerals.
September 2008 – Researchers from Harvard compare 1,800 healthy women and 1,400 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and report that talcum powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer by 36%, in a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
June 2013 – The medical journal Cancer Prevention Research publishes a study indicating that women who dusted their groin area with talcum powder had a 20% to 30% higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, compared to women who did not use talcum powder for personal hygiene purposes.
October 2014 – Asbestos in a popular talc-based powder product is linked to a case of mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive type of lung cancer, in a study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.
At least 20 studies have shown that women who used talcum powder in their groin area are more likely to develop ovarian cancer, and even the American Cancer Society warns that “it has been suggested that talcum powder might cause cancer in the ovaries if the powder particles (applied to the genital area or on sanitary napkins, diaphragms, or condoms) were to travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovary.” In an August 1992 article published in the New York Times, Johnson & Johnson admits that frequent genital dusting with talcum powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer by threefold. As a result, lawsuits filed over ovarian cancer and other injuries potentially linked to the use of talcum powder allege that J&J:
The potential connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer has long been documented, with the earliest talcum powder cancer studies dating back decades. Despite this seemingly obvious public health risk, federal regulators have yet to issue a formal warning on the labels of talc-based baby powders, notifying consumers about the potential for the products to cause ovarian cancer side effects. If you believe you have been adversely affected by side effects of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder, such as ovarian cancer, our consumer advocates at the Consumer Justice Foundation can help. We are dedicated to protecting the rights of consumers harmed by defective or dangerous products, and can help put you in touch with a qualified lawyer who has experience handling talcum powder cancer cases.