Johnson & Johnson is under fire again, facing allegations that their seemingly harmless baby powder can cause ovarian cancer. The seventh-largest corporation in America, J&J owns multiple brands selling everything from medical devices to cotton balls and prescription drugs. Baby powder is just one of the company’s products, yet over 1,000 women and their families are suing over it. These plaintiffs allege that Johnson & Johnson knew baby powder (and other talcum-based products) could cause cancer, yet failed to warn the public. With 56-year-old cancer survivor Nora Daniels’ baby powder trial currently underway in St. Louis, people want answers.
Daniels, who developed ovarian cancer after 38 years of daily baby powder use, had her reproductive organs removed in 2013. At her baby powder trial, the plaintiff testified she has a 50%-60% chance of cancer recurrence, according to Daniels’ oncologist.
Baby Powder Trial Shines Spotlight on Women’s Increased Cancer Risk
It’s called baby powder, but adults use Johnson & Johnson’s popular product more often on themselves. A 1985 article from The New York Times reads, “Babies aren’t the only ones being pampered these days. In growing numbers, adults are opting to care for their skin and hair with soaps, shampoos, powders, lotions, creams and oils marketed for the diaper set.” More adults using “baby products” may be due to J&J’s marketing efforts, specifically Shower to Shower® body powder products. In fact, Johnson & Johnson states that adults use 70% of its baby powder products.
Baby powder poses distinctly different risks to babies and adult women. The American Pediatric Association has warned moms to avoid using baby powder for years due to high talc aspiration risks. According to the APA, one report reviewed over 25 cases of talcum powder aspiration and found a 20% mortality rate. “The true incidence of baby powder inhalation is grossly underestimated,” the article states. Inhaling significant amounts of powder can cause acute or chronic lung irritation — and in some cases, even lung cancer. Because cornstarch is a relatively safe alternative, fewer people today still use talc-based powder on their babies.
More worrying is how many women use baby powder in the peritoneal region regularly for feminine hygiene. For years, advertising persuaded women to dust themselves with talc-based powder to help mask genital odors. Despite evidence that links talc use with ovarian cancer, Johnson & Johnson still markets baby powder for that specific purposes.
Baby Powder Trial Presents Its Case Against Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson’s failure to warn consumers about potential baby powder is one reason why so many lawsuits are underway. The first study hypothesizing whether talc use contributed to ovarian cancer was conducted at a Wales laboratory in 1971. Researchers who dissected ovarian and cervical tumors found particles of talc deeply embedded within most of them. A later 1982 study headed by Dr. Daniel Cramer on talc and ovarian cancer found an association between the two. Cramer’s research concluded, “If talc is involved in the etiology of ovarian cancer, it is not clear whether this derives from the asbestos content of talc or from the uniqueness of the ovary which might make it susceptible to carcinogenesis from both talc and other particulates.”
Another 10 studies soon followed, establishing a definitive link between ovarian cancer and talc-based baby or talcum powder use. However, Johnson & Johnson still won’t acknowledge the possible risk on their labeling or packaging. Even after their talc supplier added warning labels in 2006, the company still refused.
“Talcum powder is an interesting case,” says Dr. Anne McTiernan, epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, “because it’s not something that is necessary. If there’s any doubt, why should anyone use it?”
The answer to Dr. McTiernan’s question is simple. Women use baby powder because they don’t know about the possible correlation between genital talc dusting and cancer. In fact, these products are advertised to women specifically for that use, despite evidence J&J allegedly chose to withhold.
Could Different Cancers Lead to Yet Another Baby Powder Trial?
While most research involves the link between talc and ovarian cancer, there’s evidence that other cancer risks may also increase. Cancer.org disputes lung cancer claims: “No increased risk of lung cancer has been reported with use of cosmetic talcum powder.” However, one 2010 study found a possible connection between talcum powder and endometrial cancer. Researchers found a positive association between women who regularly use talcum powder in the peritoneal region versus those who don’t. The study found 13% increased risk of developing endometrial cancer for premenopausal women and 21% increase among postmenopausal subjects.
Researchers cite talc’s inflammatory properties as the main reason women develop cancer from regular use: “Our results suggest a possible role of inflammation in the development of endometrial cancer, as talc is a known inflammatory agent. Talc may increase endometrial cancer risk by inducing local and/or systemic inflammation.”
Dr. Shelley Tworoger, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard, agrees that inflammation makes cancer development more likely. Dr. Tworoger told The New York Times that’s because “talc particles can set off inflammation. Inflammation is believed to play an important role in the development of ovarian cancer.” If inflammation can cause ovarian cancer, why wouldn’t it play a role in developing endometrial and cervical cancer as well?
What You Can Do
Despite consistent evidence linking talc use to ovarian cancer, Johnson & Johnson refuses to warn consumers about this risk. As a result, thousands of women developed a potentially deadly disease. These women now seek justice and compensation through the courts during a baby powder trial.
If you or a loved one developed cancer after prolonged regular talcum powder use, you may have a case. Fill out your free talcum powder claim review form to see if you may qualify for financial compensation. An experienced attorney in your area will contact you to discuss your claim’s potential for a baby powder trial.