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Nebraska Talcum Powder Lawsuit Attorney

Representation for Victims of Talc Injuries

Baby powder. Why should it be a cause for alarm? According to medical studies, the answer is because of a mineral called talc. Talc particles have been found in ovarian tumors since as early as 1971, and a 2003 survey of published studies found that women who use talcum powder on their genitals have a 33% greater chance of developing ovarian cancer.

Now, lawsuits are being filed across the country against baby powder manufacturers, mainly industry giant Johnson & Johnson. These lawsuits allege that had Johnson & Johnson simply included warning labels about the risk of ovarian cancer on their products, these women never would have had to suffer from cancer or lose their lives.

If you or a loved one is suffering from ovarian cancer and believe talc-based powder has something to do with it, please contact an Omaha product liability lawyer at Bottlinger Law L.L.C. right away. We offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis, so feel free to call us at (402) 505-8234.

What Is Talc?

Talc is a mineral derived from rock and clay. It is the softest mineral on Earth, as many of us who took geology in high school can attest. It is made out of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen, and it is formed when rocks are heated and pressurized deep within the earth’s crust. (For those who love geology, it is a composite rock, and its chemical formula is Mg3Si4O10(OH)2.)

Talc is made up of tiny, microscopic "platelets" that slide against each other. This creates a smooth, silky sensation on human skin. It is also water repellant and "inert," which means it causes no chemical reactions.

Talc and its powder are used widely in many industries, including agriculture, ceramics, construction, industrial applications, cosmetics, paper, plastics, rubber, wastewater treatment, and of course, personal care.

As baby powder or talcum powder, it is commonly used to absorb moisture, reduce chafing, and provide a fresh, "clean" scent. (The scent is an added fragrance, not the talc itself.) Though most warning labels caution against inhaling the powder, they carry no warning about the possible risk of ovarian cancer.

How Can Talc Cause Ovarian Cancer?

Talc particles are minerals. That is to say, they’re like tiny rocks. When used for feminine hygiene, these powder particles may be able to migrate through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to lodge in the ovaries.

In 1971, a British study found talc particles "deeply embedded" in ovarian tumors. In a 2017 U.S. court trial, the toxicologist–pharmacologist expert witness concluded that talc was "toxic" based on her medical training and experience, and that it accumulated over long-term use, causing chronic inflammation of the ovaries and the resultant ovarian cancer. Another study suggested a link between endometrial (uterine) cancer and talcum powder used on the genitals.

A 2013 analysis by Harvard University found that genital talc use was associated with a small-to-moderate increase in risk for borderline and invasive ovarian cancer. They stated, "Avoidance of genital powders may be a possible strategy to reduce ovarian cancer incidence."

That’s not to say there is consensus over the link between talc and ovarian cancer. While the World Health Organization calls talc "possibly carcinogenic to humans," the National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query Editorial Board wrote, "Studies of women who used talcum powder (talc) dusted on the perineum (the area between the vagina and the anus) have not found clear evidence of an increased risk of ovarian cancer." A 2013 article pointed out, "…measures of internal talc exposure such as talc-dusted diaphragms and latex condoms show no relationship with ovarian cancer risk…. In summary, these data collectively do not indicate that cosmetic talc causes ovarian cancer."

The American Cancer Society downplays the risk from talc, but they still acknowledge that talc can cause an increased risk of ovarian cancer, and they note that research in this area continues.

More lab testing and long-term studies are needed before we can declare talc "safe." However, if there is a risk of negative effects (and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute says there might be), a product should carry a warning label. Currently, baby powders do not.

Asbestos Exposure and Talc

While there is still debate over the safety of pure talc, there is also an underlying issue with talcum powder: asbestos. Many of us know the dangers of asbestos exposure and the risk of contracting mesothelioma, but often expect the risk to come from power plants, industrial plants, or contaminated water, not baby powder. However, talc mines are often located close to asbestos mines, and because of how absorbent talc minerals are, it is a real possibility that talcum powder can contain dangerous traces of asbestos.

Testing and analysis over the past few decades have routinely linked cases of lung and ovarian cancer, as well as mesothelioma, with talcum powder, leading to multiple lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, as well as its talc supplier, Imerys Talc America Inc. Imerys has since filed for bankruptcy in February 2019 after receiving over 14,000 claims related to asbestos-contaminated talc, and additional claims have been filed against Johnson & Johnson.

And these claims have gained traction in recent years, as New York Times reported that Johnson & Johnson is being investigated by the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission regarding the possibility of asbestos exposure from their products in February 2019. Later that year, the New York Times also reported that Johnson and Johnson knew about the potential links between their products and asbestos exposure, further adding fuel to the fire. Since then, investigations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have confirmed Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder contained traces of asbestos, leading to a massive recall in November 2019.

Currently, Johnson & Johnson has paid out nearly $1 billion in damages to injured parties in asbestos-related lawsuits, one of the most recent cases being a $750 million verdict to plaintiffs who contracted mesothelioma as a result of using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products.

FDA and Warning Labels

Despite substantial evidence and cases against Johnson and Johnson, the company still does not have warning labels on its products, but this is largely due to how those products are categorized. Whether you call it baby powder or talcum powder, it’s considered a cosmetic product and does not have to be reviewed or approved by the FDA before hitting the market.

Johnson & Johnson, the largest pharmaceutical manufacturer of talc-based skin powder, steadfastly refuses to add a warning label to its products. Currently, labels read: Keep powder away from child's face to avoid inhalation, which can cause breathing problems. Avoid contact with the eyes. For external use only. Keep out of reach of children. Do not use if quality seal is broken.

Not a word about the potential risk of ovarian cancer in genital use is included.

J&J Discontinues Sales in the USA and Canada

As a result of mounting lawsuits and public distrust towards the company, Johnson & Johnson discontinued sales of talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada, as reported by the New York Times in May 2020. This can be seen as a major win for North American consumers who will not have to fear the risk of dangerous products being on the market, but the company is still resistant to admitting fault and has zealously defended the safety of its products. The company has cited declining profits and consumer demand as the reason for discontinuing marketing in the United States and Canada, however, that does not mean the company is still free of lawsuits and plaintiffs can still come forward with a claim.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that 22,440 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer and about 14,080 women will die from ovarian cancer in 2017 alone. It is the fifth most deadly cancer among women and the number one cause of cancer death from gynecological tumors in the U.S.

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect. Most cases are diagnosed at a later stage, as there are few warning signs besides feeling an "abdominal mass." These tumors are more likely to develop in women over 63, who have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or never had children. Symptoms are "vague" and "nonspecific," but they include:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Feeling of pressure in the bladder
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble breathing
  • Indigestion and heartburn
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling full after eating a little food, unable to eat a full meal

Though doctors rarely find physical reasons to suspect ovarian cancer, clinical observation can tip them off. (Screenings of the general population are not recommended by the National Cancer Institute.) A determination of ovarian cancer can only be made after the ovary is removed and dissected, or by sampling tissue or fluid from the affected area.

Who Can File a Lawsuit?

If you have a history of using Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder or Shower to Shower for feminine hygiene and were given an ovarian cancer or mesothelioma diagnosis, you can. Thousands of women have already filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc America Inc., the company that mines the talc. In the 1970s and ‘80s, there were plenty of studies questioning the link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer, and that conversation has only gotten louder.

This current litigation alleges "wrongful conduct" on the part of the defendants when they chose to conceal the negative effects of talcum powder for perineal use. By not putting a warning label on the products, plaintiffs say, Johnson & Johnson took away their ability to make an informed choice about their health, and now they’re suffering ovarian cancer as a result.

So far, juries in Missouri have awarded more than $127 million in damages, and a jury in California had awarded an ovarian cancer victim $417 million in damages: $70 million in economic damages, and $347 million in punitive damages meant to punish the company for wrongdoing. The most notable award came in 2018 from a Missouri court, which awarded $4.69 billion in damages to 22 women and their families. While Johnson & Johnson continues to try to appeal verdicts, the pharmaceutical company is currently facing over 5,000 additional lawsuits.

If you or a loved one—a wife, mother, daughter, or friend—has received an ovarian cancer or mesothelioma diagnosis after long-term talc use, there is help available. Negligent companies should be held accountable for not placing warning labels on their products and exposing customers to dangerous substances. With a knowledgeable legal team at your side, you may be able to file a claim for damages and recover compensation for your medical expenses and losses. Please call the Omaha legal team at Bottlinger Law L.L.C. at (402) 505-8234 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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