If you have been using talcum powder or talc regularly for several years you should be aware that there have been numerous concerns raised about the possible link between the use of the powder and some cancers. The link is tenuous but is strongest between the regular use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer in women, especially if the powder has been used in the genital area.
The link has led to numerous lawsuits against one of the most important manufacturers of talcum powder, Johnson & Johnson. Some of these lawsuits have been successful, while some have not. There are many thousands of lawsuits still waiting to be heard, some of which have been grouped into a single multiple litigation and are now going to be heard by a federal court.
The case against talc
Talc is a naturally occurring substance that is composed of a compound containing magnesium, silicon and oxygen. It has been used in powder form for at least a century and probably a lot longer as a drying agent. It is one of the softest of any known minerals, hence its value as a cosmetic. Most commercial talcum powder, such as Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder, has been perfumed. It remains a popular cosmetic product but it does seem that the use of it is declining, probably because of negative publicity about its use.
Johnson & Johnson, despite the number of lawsuits it has had to contend with, has been adamant that its product is entirely safe. The most convincing evidence was discovered in the 1970s, which was the discovery of talc in ovarian cancer cells as well as studies that appeared to show that those women who used talcum powder for feminine hygiene had a greater chance of developing ovarian cancer. There were other studies that seemed to contradict the link, however.
Mining of talc before the early 1970s may have meant that naturally occurring asbestos, which was present together with talc in the mine site, contaminated some sources of the powder and resulted in cases of mesothelioma. At least one woman has successfully sued Johnson & Johnson in California because of her mesothelioma.
In Missouri, Jackie Fox’s family successfully sued Johnson & Johnson for $72 million after she died. She had used the powder for many years before developing ovarian cancer.
Lawsuits have not all gone against Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson isn’t about to stop producing baby powder. It has not lost every lawsuit filed against it and has, in fact, won some of them. About 1,000 individual lawsuits that were bundled into a single multidistrict litigation (MDL) in a district court in Missouri earlier this year have now been passed over to a federal court in New Jersey to be heard.
One of the problems with litigation against talc manufacturers is that the science is still not very clear cut. Ovarian cancer itself is not one of the most common of cancers and there are several other potential causes that have been identified, including genetics, hormone replacement therapy and obesity.
Like the link between smoking and lung cancer many years ago, it might take more serious research before an uncontestable link makes the picture clearer Lawsuits may then finally put the nail in Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder coffin. It may be recalled that tobacco companies were never likely to admit that their products were dangerous to human health. Tobacco is still being sold despite the fact that the link has now been demonstrably proved.
If you haven’t yet made up your mind about whether talc is safe, it is probably safe to say that using a clean fluffy towel is a lot less likely to cause you any harm at this stage.
Talk to a doctor if concerned about possible harm from the use of a cosmetic
If you are at all concerned about the use of a particular cosmetic, you should first talk to your own physician. If necessary, get a second opinion. If still worried, stop using it, if it’s only a cosmetic and has no specific medical purpose.
If you do suspect that any cosmetic product you have been using has caused you serious harm, talk to one of our knowledgeable lawyers at the Diaz Law Firm in Jackson Mississippi about your legal options. You can contact the firm at 601-607-3456.