Huge $417M Verdict Handed Down in Talcum Powder Case
On August 21, 2017, a California jury handed down the largest verdict yet in the ongoing saga of “talc causes cancer.” That is, Johnson & Johnson, which markets the product for public consumption, flat-out denying the claims of thousands of women who believe that long-term use of Johnson’s talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer.
In the court case of Echeverria et al v. Johnson & Johnson, the jury decidedly sided with the women.
Talcum Powder Is Everywhere
Talcum powder, more commonly called “baby powder,” can be found in most U.S. homes. In 2016, Johnson’s Baby Powder was used by 54 million Americans, and its Shower to Shower brand, by nearly 18 million. Johnson & Johnson dominates the market when it comes to talc-based products, but other brands are used by tens of millions more users.
For many decades, these powders were marketed as an essential genital hygiene product for women. A 1988 ad for Shower to Shower declared, “Just a sprinkle a day helps keeps odor away.” However, using talc-based powders on the genitals (perineal use) has been linked to a 33% increased risk of ovarian cancer by a 2003 medical review, which looked at 16 previous studies.
But, the science is still mixed as a whole. While the International Agency for Research on Cancer calls talc “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” the National Cancer Institute’s Editorial Board downplays the connection between perineal talc exposure and an increased risk of ovarian cancer. On the other hand, the U.S. National Toxicology Program has not fully reviewed talc as a carcinogenic.
This can be very confusing for consumers…
Shouldn’t There Be a Warning?
Believe it or not, this whole lawsuit hinged on the need for a warning label. When the plaintiff, Eva Echeverria, learned about the possible link between talc and ovarian cancer, she immediately stopped using the product, which had been part of her regular routine since she was 11. Unfortunately, it was already too late.
By not having a warning label, Echeverria said, Johnson & Johnson failed to fully inform her of the risks of talcum powder; risks that they knew about since a 1971 British medical report that noted talc particles inside ovarian tumors. In doing this, they denied her the chance to avoid the product, which she believed was perfectly harmless.
How many lives would be changed by one warning label?
Because baby powder is considered a cosmetic product, it does not have to be reviewed or approved by the U.S.’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before hitting the market.
Is There Clear Proof of Fault?
Four Missouri juries have already awarded over $170 million to women in previous, similar cases, and this California jury was convinced of the link between Johnson’s failure to warn Echevarria and the serious damage to her health.
Expert witness Laura Plunkett, a toxicologist and pharmacologist, testified that talc is toxic when used on a woman’s genital area. It can cause ovarian cancer by “migrating” into the ovaries, leading to chronic inflammation. Since talc is not absorbed by the body, it builds up slowly. “Doses on a daily basis, if they sit in the tissue over time, the more and more body burden that builds up in those tissues can lead to continual toxicity within the tissues, and that’s this chronic inflammation,” Plunkett said.
Though the jury is “still out” on whether or not talc is a carcinogen, it’s plain common sense that a warning label should be placed on every talc-based powder. If there is a risk, women deserve to be told. Doing so may save countless lives in the future.
Did Talc Contribute to Your Cancer?
If you are a victim or survivor of ovarian cancer and suspect that talcum powder played a role in causing your illness, please give us a call. This is a hotly-contested issue, but more and more research shows that this was a known risk, even in the 1970s. Pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson must be held responsible to consumers, and many lawsuits are being filed throughout the U.S.
At Bottlinger Law L.L.C., our Omaha-based legal team handles large litigation, but our focus is on the client. We believe that it’s still about people. For a free consultation with a talcum powder lawsuit attorney, call (402) 505-8234.
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