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Talcum Powder Litigation: Examining Recent Cases

Life is certainly full of beauty and wonder. But many of us would also agree that life supplies an apparently never-ending series of challenges. As soon as we conquer one mountain, another one seems to come into sight on the horizon.

And that goes double for our health. One moment, we’re told coffee will kill us, and the next moment researchers tell us that coffee protects against Parkinson’s disease and depression. Eggs were once considered dangerous for the heart, but are now highly recommended for their protein.

But new information can take us the other way, too. Juicing was once the healthy rage. Now, doctors warn about all the sugar, insulin spikes, and diabetes. Heck, in the distant past tobacco was considered healthy – and we all know how that turned out.

So, what about talcum powder? Is it safe, or will we one day look at it the same way we now look at tobacco? We’ll explore that question in today’s article.

Historical Underpinnings of Talcum Powder Litigation

Talcum powder-related litigation has been around for a few years now. According to the Huffington Post, Johnson & Johnson first developed a scented talcum powder product in 1892. The original idea was for use with sanitary napkins after childbirth. Women liked the product, and started to use it in their underwear.

Talcum powder is and has been used in a wide variety of products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower, but it wasn’t until 2009 that it first showed up in lawsuits. A woman in South Dakota who had used talcum powder for over 30 years sued Johnson & Johnson after she developed ovarian cancer. She had used the product frequently, noting that the product contained no warnings of danger associated with long-term use.

Johnson & Johnson offered the plaintiff a large settlement, but snuck a confidentiality provision into the terms. The plaintiff felt that it was too important to warn other women about the potential dangers of talcum powder, so she turned down the offer and went to trial. The jury determined that the cancer was in fact related to the talcum powder.

Notwithstanding this verdict, there is still disagreement in the science and medical world as to whether talcum powder causes ovarian cancer. One study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute concluded: “Our results provide little support for any substantial association between perineal talc use and ovarian cancer risk overall; however perineal talc use may modestly increase the risk of invasive serous ovarian cancer.”

On the other hand, other research has found a link, including a report in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer.

More Lawsuits Have Been Filed

Numerous additional lawsuits have been filed since that time. One notable case was filed in St. Louis, Missouri, where 22 plaintiffs sued Johnson & Johnson, claiming that the women involved developed ovarian cancer after being exposed to asbestos alleged to be in the company’s baby powder. The jury awarded actual damages in the amount of $550 million and punitive damages in the amount of $4.14 billion.

However, it is important to note a critical difference in this case from most other talc cases – the allegation of the presence of asbestos. Many other talc cases have not made such a claim.

Taking Precautions

As we have learned from asbestos and other dangerous products, we sometimes do not know the whole story until the passage of a great deal of time. However, Johnson & Johnson and other companies now offer a version of their product which uses cornstarch rather than talc, in the hopes of providing a safe alternative for those with doubts about products containing talc.

Call with Questions

If you have suffered adverse consequences from the use of a dangerous product, please call the experienced products liability attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield with any questions you have. We believe strongly in holding manufacturers accountable for their wrongs. After all, that’s the only way to protect the rest of us in society from dangerous products.