Lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson have stated that the company continued to market power that included talc, even after they had known the connection between ovarian cancer and genital talcum use. Many women have used their powder for decades did so under the guise of its safety for their feminine hygiene. The lawsuit goes on to accuse Johnson & Johnson Baby of failing to warn women of the increased risk of ovarian cancer, putting their own profits from sales ahead of the health of their customers. As a result, personal injury lawsuits by women with ovarian cancer who used baby powder with talc are rapidly increasing as the knowledge of the lawsuit spreads.
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By Joseph H. Saunders
St. Pete Times
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder has been implicated in hundreds of cases of ovarian cancer in women. Many women have used talcum powder for decades for feminine hygiene believing in the safety of the powder. Johnson & Johnson markets the product for “freshness” and “comfort”. Many advertisements suggest that use of the powder in the vaginal area would mask odors and adsorb excess wetness.
Women were not told of a medical study in 1982 that found a 92% increase in ovarian cancer in women who reported genital talc use. There had been a prior study that suggested this connection back in 1971. Since the 1982 study by Dr. Daniel Cramer there have been 27 studies on the connection between Talcum power and ovarian cancer and most of them have confirmed the relationship.
Johnson & Johnson internal documents obtained in the lawsuits reveal the Company knew years ago that “Retrospective studies have implicated talc use in the vaginal area with the incidence of ovarian cancer”.
In 1993, The United States National Toxicology Program concluded that talc was a carcinogen. And in 1996, the condom industry stopped dusting condoms with talc at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This was the direct result of the scientific concern about the ovarian cancer risk from vaginal exposure to talc.
In spite of this overwhelming evidence that Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder was causing ovarian cancer, it continued to aggressively market the powder and failed to warn women of the increased risk of ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson put the companies own profits from sales ahead of the health of its customers by continuing to promote the talcum powder and concealing the cancer risk. Johnson & Johnson should have changed the product to a corn starch powder which works just as well as talc. They did not do so because from a sales perspective customers were so used to “talcum powder” that the company feared loss of sales. Johnson & Johnson was also part of a trade group named Talc Interested Party Task Force (TIPTF). This group included companies such as Imerys Talc that sold talc and had a vested interest in continuing to market talc baby powder.
These companies organized and pooled resources to defend talc and create false science to counter the objective academic scientific studies done by Cramer and others. They followed the playbook of the Tobacco industry in trying to attack the science against their products and hiring lobbyists to prevent any government regulation.
The filing of personal injury lawsuits by women with ovarian cancer who used baby powder is rapidly increasing. A petition was recently filed with the United States Federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to have the talcum powder cases all assigned to one federal judge for pretrial management. I think this should be helpful in organizing the lawsuits which will number in the hundreds and possibly thousands. The Multidistrict Panel assigned the cases to U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson in New Jersey. Currently, there are fewer than 100 cases in federal court but new ones are being filed every day.
There have already been some multi-million dollar jury verdicts in St. Louis in the Missouri state court system against Johnson & Johnson. Those cases are on appeal and J&J has not paid anyone that I know of in any settlements or verdicts. In New Jersey, one state court judge dismissed over 200 lawsuits ruling that there was not enough science yet to prove that the baby powder causes ovarian cancer. That ruling is on appeal.
None of these cases are class action lawsuits. I do not believe a class action will be certified for cancer cases from talc. An individual lawsuit must be filed on behalf of any woman who has contracted ovarian cancer from baby powder.
There are strict time limits for filing these lawsuits so it is important for individuals to get prompt legal advice from my firm or any other lawyer specialized in this area of the law.
Set forth below are some of the scientific articles that I have cited in one of the Talc lawsuits I filed in January 2017:
In 1983, a case-control study found a 150% increased risk of ovarian cancer for women who use talcum powder in the genital area. Hartge, P., et al. Talc and Ovarian Cancer. 1983; 250(14):1844.
In 1988, a case control study of 188 women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer and 539 control women found that 52% of the cancer patients habitually used talcum powder on the genital area before their cancer diagnosis. The study showed a 40% increased risk of ovarian cancer in women that used talcum powder on their genital area and the relative risk for talc use between 1 and 9 years, relative to a shorter duration, was 1.6 (p = 0.05). Whittemore AS, et al. Personal and environmental characteristics related to epithelial ovarian cancer. II. Exposures to talcum powder, tobacco, alcohol, and coffee. J. Epidemiol. 1988 Dec; 128(6):1228-40.
A 1989 study looked at 235 women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer and 451 controls, and found a 29% increased risk in ovarian cancer with women who reported genital talcum powder use more than once a week. Booth, M., et al. Risk factors for ovarian cancer: a case-control study. Br J Cancer. 1989 Oct; 60(4):592-8.
In 1992, a case-control study found an 80% increased risk of ovarian cancer in women with more than 10,000 lifetime perineal applications of talc, demonstrating a positive dose-response relationship. Harlow BL, et al. Perineal exposure to talc and ovarian cancer risk. Obstet Gynecol. 1992 Jul; 80(1):19-26.
Another 1992 case-control study reported at 70% increased risk from genital talc use and a 379% significantly increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who used talc on sanitary napkins in their genital area. Rosenblatt, K.A. et al. Mineral fiber exposure and the development of ovarian cancer. Oncol. 1992 Apr; 45(1):20-5.
Yet another case-control study by Yong Chen with 112 diagnosed epithelial ovarian cases and 224 age-matched community controls found an elevated risk for ovarian cancer in women who applied talc-containing dusting powder to the lower abdomen and perineum for longer than 3 months. Yong Chen, et al., Risk Factors for Epithelial Ovarian Cancer in Beijing, China, 21 I Epidemiol. 23-29 (1992).
In 1995, the largest study of its kind to date found a 27% increased risk in ovarian cancer for women who regularly use talc in the abdominal or perineal area. Purdie, D., et al. Reproductive and other factors and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer: An Australian case-control study. Survey of Women’s Health Study Group. Int J Cancer. 1995 Sep 15; 60(6):678-84.
In 1996, a case-control study found a statistically significant 97% increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who used what they described as “moderate” or higher use of talc-based powders in their genital area. See Shushan, A., et al. Human menopausal gonadotropin and the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. Steril. 1996 Jan; 65(1):13-8.
In 1997, a case control study of 313 women with ovarian cancer and 422 without this disease found that the women with cancer were more likely to have applied talcum powder to their external genitalia area. Women who performed any perineal dusting or used genital deodorant spray respectively had a statistically significant 60% to 90% higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Cook, LS, et al. Perineal powder exposure and the risk of ovarian cancer. J Epidemiol. 1997 Mar 1; 145(5):459-65.
In 1997, a case-control study involving over 1,000 women found a statistically significant increased risk of 42% for ovarian cancer for women who applied talc directly or via sanitary napkins to their perineal area. Chang, S, et al. Perineal talc exposure and risk of ovarian carcinoma. 1997 Jun 15; 79(12):2396-401.
In 1998, a case-control study found a 149% increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who used talc-based powders on their perineal area. Godard, , et al. Risk factors for familial and sporadic ovarian cancer among French Canadians: a case-control study. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1998 Aug; 179(2):403-10.
Daniel Cramer conducted another case-control study in 1999, observing 563 women newly diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer and 523 women in a control. The study found a statistically significant 60% increased risk of ovarian cancer in women that used talc-based body powders on their perineal area and an 80% increase in risk for women over 10,000 lifetime applications. Cramer, DW, et al. Genital talc exposure and risk of ovarian cancer. Int J Cancer. 1999 May 5; 81(3):351-56.
In 2000, a case-control study including over 2,000 women found a statistically significant 50% increased risk of ovarian cancer from genital talc use in women. Ness, RB, et al. Factors related to inflammation of the ovarian epithelium and risk of ovarian cancer. 2000 Mar; 11(2):111-7.
In 2004, a case-control study of nearly 1,400 women from 22 counties in Central California found a statistically significant 37% increased risk of epithelial ovarian cancer from women’s genital talc use, and a 77% increased risk of serous invasive ovarian cancer from women’s genital talc use. Importantly, this study also examined women’s use of cornstarch powders as an alternative to talc, and found no increased risk of ovarian cancer in women in the cornstarch group, supporting a safe alternative to talc for genital use. Mills, PK, et al. Perineal talc exposure and epithelial ovarian cancer risk in the Central Valley of California. Int J Cancer. 2004 Nov 10; 112(3):458-64.
In at 2007 study by Buz’Zard, et al., talc was found to increase proliferation, induce neoplastic transformation and increase reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation time-dependently in the ovarian cells. The study concluded that talc may contribute to ovarian carcinogenesis in humans. The data suggested that talc may contribute to ovarian neoplastic transformation and Pycnogenol reduced the talc-induced transformation. Phytotherapy Research: PTR 21, no. 6 (June 2007): 579-86.
In 2008, a combined study of over 3,000 from a New England-based case-control study found a 36% statistically significant increased risk for all types of epithelial ovarian cancer from genital talc use and a 60% increased risk of the serous invasive cancer subtype. The study also found a highly significant dose-response relationship between the cumulative talc exposure and incidence of ovarian cancer (an all serous invasive ovarian cancer), adding further support to the causal relationship. Gates, MA, et al. Talc Use, Variants of the GSTM1, GSTT1, and NAT2 Genes, and Risk of Epithelial Ovarian Cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prey. 2008 Sep; 17(9):2436-44.
A 2009 case-control study of over 1,200 women found the risk of ovarian cancer increased significantly with increasing frequency and duration of talc use, with an overall statistically significant 53% increased risk of ovarian cancer from genital talc use. That increased risk rose dramatically, to 108%, in women with the longest duration and most frequent talc use. Wu, AH, et al. Markers of inflammation and risk of ovarian cancer in Los Angeles County. J Cancer. 2009 Mar 15; 124(6):1409-15.
In 2011, another case-control study of over 2,000 women found a 27% increased risk of ovarian cancer from genital talc use. Rosenblatt, KA, et al. Genital powder exposure and the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. Cancer Causes Control. 2011 May; 22(5):737-42.
In June of 2013, a pooled analysis of over 18,000 women in eight case-control studies found a 20% to 30% increased risk of women developing epithelial ovarian cancer from genital powder use. The study concluded by stating, “Because there are few modifiable risk factors for ovarian cancer, avoidance of genital powders may be a possible strategy to reduce ovarian cancer incidence.” Terry, KL, et al. Genital powder use and risk of ovarian cancer: a pooled analysis of 8,525 cases and 9,859 controls. Cancer Prey Res (Phila). 2013 Aug; 6(8):811.
In May, Roberta Ness performed a meta-analysis of all accumulated epidemiologic evidence (23 case-control studies, 5 meta-analyses, and analyses of a single cohort). Talc use was found to increase ovarian cancer by 30-60% in almost all well-designated studies. The results were published in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer. Ness, R. Does talc exposure cause ovarian cancer? Intl. Jnl Gyn Cancer. 25 Suppl 1 (May 2015): 51.
Also in 2015, Cramer, et al. performed a retrospective case-control study. Overall, genital talc use was associated with an OR (95% CI) of 1.33 (1.16; 1.52), with a trend for increasing risk by talc-years. In addition, subtypes of ovarian cancer more likely to be associated with talc included invasive serous and endometriod tumors and borderline serous and mucinous tumors. Premenopausal women and postmenopausal HRT users with these subtypes who had accumulated greater than 24 talc-years had ORs (95% CI) of 2.33 (1.32; 4.12) and 2.57 (1.5, 4.36), respectively. Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.), December 17, 2015.
A 2016 study of African-American women found that body powder was significantly associated with Epithelial Ovarian Cancer. Genital powder was associated with an increased risk of EOC (OR = 1,44; 95% CI, 1.11-1.86) and a dose-relationship was found for duration of sue and a number of lifetime applications (P <05). The study concluded that body powder is a risk factor for epithelial ovarian cancer among African-American women. Schildkraut JM, et al. Association between Body Powder Use and Ovarian Cancer: the African American Cancer Epidemiology Study (AACES). Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention: a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventative Oncology. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prey; 21(10); 1411-7.
A 2014 study examined 2,041 cases with epithelial ovarian cancer and 2,100 age-and-residence-matched controls. Genital use of talc was associated with a 1.33 OR with a trend for increasing risk by years of talc use. Most women in the study reported using Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. Among epidemiologic variables, no confounders for the association were identified. Cramer, DW, et al. The association between talc use and ovarian cancer: a retrospective case-control study in two US states. 2016; 27, 33446.
In 1990, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) asked manufacturers to voluntarily stop putting talc on surgical gloves because mounting scientific evidence showed that it caused adhesions in surgical patients, an indication of a foreign body reaction. On December 19, 2016, the FDA issued a ban on powdered surgical gloves, stating that “the risk of illness or injury posed by powdered gloves is unreasonable and substantial”.
In November 10, 1994. the Cancer Prevention Coalition mailed a letter to Ralph Larson, who was CEO of Johnson & Johnson at the time, informing his company that studies as far back as 1960’s ” … show[ ] conclusively that the frequent use of talcum powder in the genital area pose [ ] a serious health risk of ovarian cancer.” The letter cited a recent study by Dr. Bernard Harlow from Harvard Medical School confirming this fact and quoted a portion of the study where Dr. Harlow and his colleagues discouraged the use of talc in the female genital area. The letter further stated that 14,000 women per year die from ovarian cancer and that this type of cancer is very difficult to detect and has a low survival rate. The letter concluded by requesting that Johnson & Johnson withdraw talc products from the market because of the alternative of corn starch powders, or at a minimum, place waning information on its talc-based body powders about the ovarian cancer risk they pose.
On or about September 17, 1997, Johnson & Johnson’s own toxicology consultant, Dr. Alfred Wehner, informed the company about false public statements being made by the Defendants regarding talc safety.
In February, 2010, the International Association for the Research of Cancer (IARC) part of the World Health Organization published a paper whereby they classified perineal use of talc based body powder as a “Group 2B” human carcinogen. IARC which is universally accepted as the international authority on cancer issues, concluded that studies from around the world consistently found an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women from perineal use of tale. IARC found that between 16-52% of women in the world were using talc to dust their perineum and found an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women talc users ranging from 30-60%. IARC concluded with this “Evaluation”: “There is limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of perineal use of talc-based body powder.” By definition “Limited evidence of carcinogenicity” means “a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer for which a causal interpretation is considered by the Working Group to be credible, but chance, bias or confounding could not be ruled out with reasonable confidence.”
In approximately 2006, the Canadian government under The Hazardous Products Act and associated Controlled Products Regulations classified talc as a “D2A” , “very toxic”, “cancer causing” substance under its Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). Asbestos is also classified as “D2A”.
In or about 2006, Imerys Talc began placing a warning on its Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) it provided to the Johnson & Johnson Defendants regarding the talc it sold to them to be used in the PRODUCTS. These MSDSs not only provided the warning information about the IARC classification, but also included warning information regarding “States Rights to Know” and warning information about the Canadian Government’s “D2A” classification of talc as well.
In 2008, the Cancer Prevention Coalition submitted a second “Petition Seeking a Cancer Warning on Cosmetic Talc Products” to the FDA. The first Citizen Petition had been filed on November, 17, 1994. The second Petition requested that the FDA immediately require cosmetic talcum powder products to bear labels with a prominent warning that frequent talc application in the female genital area is responsible for major risks of ovarian cancer. The FDA response to the two Citizen Petitions was filed on April 1, 2014.
In 2013, Cancer Prevention Research published a study that showed that women who used talcum powder in their groin area had a 20 to 30 percent greater risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who did not use talc products in that area.
The Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry, Roswell Park Center Institute, and the Department of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Vermont, published a pamphlet entitled “Myths & Facts about ovarian cancer: What you need to know.” In this pamphlet, under “known” risk factors for ovarian cancer, it lists: “Use of Talc (Baby Powder) in the Genital Area”.