Johnson and Johnson was once a trusted household name; however, its reputation has deteriorated due to the latest spate of lawsuits liked to their baby powder. A reputation that took many decades to build is nearly destroyed when lawsuits alleging the talc used in Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
These lawsuits have found the company guilty of negligence, conspiracy, fraud, and failure to warn consumers of the hidden dangers of using Johnson and Johnson baby powder. The New York Times reports that analysts suggest that the ongoing baby powder related lawsuits could cost the company in the region of $5 billion to $10 billion.
In October 2019, Johnson and Johnson recalled 33,000 bottles of baby powder after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered evidence of asbestos, a known carcinogen, in one of its bottles.
History of Talc and Baby Powder
Baby powder is a powder commonly used for diaper rash and in cosmetics. The main ingredient used in baby powder is talc, a mineral mined from deposits above the ground.
Talc is the softest mineral on earth and used in baby powder to absorb odors and moisture. The powdery texture of talc makes it highly absorbent. It was first released in 1894 as a baby powder to ease diaper rash, which contained 99.8 percent talc.
In the 1900s, Johnson and Johnson began to market the product to women to use in addition to babies. The company said that talc was great for controlling moisture and body odor. Increasingly women began to use baby powder in the genital region by sprinkling baby powder on their underwear, a routine many women have followed for years. The talc was supposed to keep the genital area free from vaginal odors. Shower-to-Shower Body Powder, a newer product also containing talc, was developed by Johnson and Johnson 50 years ago. The company marketed this product to women using the slogan, “A sprinkle a day keeps odor away.” despite knowing there was a connection between talc and various forms of cancer.
The New York Times reported that Johnson and Johnson spent many years insisting that their bottles of baby powder were safe and asbestos-free despite knowing trace amounts of asbestos were discovered in their own testing processes. In denial, they claimed to the FDA their products were asbestos-free.
Talcum Powder (Talc) and Asbestos
Talc is a mineral compound similar to asbestos, which is often found together in geological formations. Asbestos and talc are two minerals that form together naturally as they are similar in composition. When talc and asbestos are mined together, cross-contamination occurs.
In the 1950s, researchers found that asbestos was a carcinogenic material, and although it is still used in some products, the use of asbestos has largely ceased. Exposure to asbestos can result in the development of asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
Talc powder has not yet been recognized as a deadly substance. Keep in mind, nor was asbestos until the mid-1980s. Asbestos is a known cause of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs or abdomen.
FDA and Johnson and Johnson
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the federal agency responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring products like baby powder are safe for use. After the FDA found a sample of chrysotile fibers, a type of asbestos in Johnson’s baby powder, they released its findings to the general public. After the FDA press release, Johnson and Johnson voluntarily recalled its baby powder. The recall was only prompted by the FD.A.’s discovery of trace levels of chrysotile asbestos in a bottle of Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder bought from an online retailer.
In May 2019, Johnson and Johnson announced it would stop selling talc-based baby powder in Canada and the United States. While this is good for those living in the United States and Canada, Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder continues to be sold in other countries around the world.
Link Between Talc and Cancer
Almost 40 papers have been published in medical journals outlining the potential link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. The first was published in 1971 in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, which revealed that talc particles had been found in 75% of ovarian cancer and cervical tumors removed from 13 different women. According to claims made in recent lawsuits, Johnson and Johnson began a campaign to undermine this study.
In late 2018, Reuters published a lengthy exposé detailing Johnson & Johnson’s misdeeds regarding their talcum powder products. It appears Johnson and Johnson were aware of asbestos contamination in their baby powder as early as the 1950s.
In a 1957 Johnson and Johnson research report, investigators noticed a 1-3 percent of the Italian talc they were using at the time contained contaminants. The report noted the presence of tremolite fibers, also known as asbestos. The reports do not specify whether it was asbestiform or non-asbestiform tremolite.
In 1969, one of Johnson and Johnson’s own executive physicians pointed out a link between the fibers found in their baby powder and the increasing incidence of certain kinds of cancer.
Johnson and Johnson then deliberately engaged in multiple tactics to minimize the possible risk factors of using their talc-based products. They withheld lab reports from the FDA, indicating that there were no asbestos fibers in Johnson and Johnson baby powder in an attempt to dumb down FDAs testings requirements. An internal 1975 document outlined its strategy to neutralize or hold back data that questioned the safety of talc.
Baby Powder, or talc as it’s commonly known, is used by millions of women globally, which is a concern considering Johnson and Johnson have known for years of the cross-contamination of asbestos in the mining process.
Talcum powder is not regulated in the United States, although researchers discovered more than thirty years ago that there is a link between the perineal use of talcum powder and the increased risk of ovarian cancer.
The talcum powder ovarian cancer risk has been documented through numerous studies dating back to 1982. When talc products such as Johnson’s Baby Powder or Johnson’s Shower to Shower products are applied to the genital region, talc particles can travel through the female reproductive system to the ovaries.
To understand how talcum powder causes ovarian cancer consider this. When talcum powder is used on sanitary napkins and undergarments that sit close to the vulva, talc with asbestos contamination travels into the vagina and on through the rest of the female reproductive system and the fallopian tubes. These tiny particles become stuck, and over time build up with regular use of talc. These talc particles can remain in the ovaries for many years, causing inflammation, ultimately creating an environment conducive to the growth of cancer cells.
Some experts estimate that roughly 10,000 women each year develop ovarian cancer as a result of using baby powder.
In June 2020, A Missouri appeals court ordered Johnson and Johnson along with one of their subsidiaries to pay $2.1 billion in damages to women who blamed the companies talc-based products for their ovarian cancer.
Asbestos is a known carcinogenic related to lung cancer and mesothelioma. Until recent years, asbestos was the only mineral people associated with mesothelioma, and now that perception is changing to include talc related products, specifically baby powder.
A mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer known to be caused by the accidental inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers. When the baby powder is typically applied by shaking talc powder on the body, this allows the particles to become airborne. Inhalation of harmful asbestos fibers occurs simply by unknowingly breathing in particles of the powder when they become airborne.
Talcum Powder Lawsuit
The talcum powder lawsuits hinge on the fact that although Johnson and Johnson knew that talc was cross-contaminated with asbestos fibers, the company did nothing to warn consumers about the risk.
These talcum powder lawsuits claim Johnson and Johnson talcum powder have known for four decades that there was a link between baby powder and ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
The talcum powder lawsuit claims the manufacturers failed to warn users of talc of the increased risk of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma when women use these products for personal hygiene purposes.
Our law firm is seeking compensation for individuals who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma as a result of significant exposure to talcum powder, including Johnson’s Baby Powder.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits
The talcum powder lawsuits claim the manufacturers of talcum powder have known for more than 40 years; there is a link between using the product and ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Yet, Johnson and Johnson intentionally made the decision not to warn women Johnson’s Baby Powder could cause cancer by entering the lungs or the vagina area after being applied for personal hygiene purposes.
The First Lawsuit
The first talcum powder lawsuit was filed by Diane Berg in 2009. She was a physician assistant from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. At 49 years old, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. For most of her life, she sprinkled her underwear with baby powder to remove bad odor.
Even though Johnson and Johnson offered her an out-of-court settlement of $1.3 million, providing she signed a confidentiality clause, she refused.
St Louis Lawsuit
Two judges in St. Louis ordered Johnson and Johnson to pay $127 million on behalf of two families suggesting that the scientific evidence is clear that Johnson’s baby powder caused the women’s cancers, especially when used in the genital area. One of the reasons why Johnson and Johnson were eventually found guilty of its accusations was the fact they purposely concealed critical information about the safety of talc for more than 40 years.
In 2018 Johnson and Johnson lost two lawsuits that cost them $117 million and $29.4 million, respectively. The jury verdict asserted that a man’s asbestos-related cancer was linked to the use of Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Powder.
A woman with mesothelioma and her husband won their lawsuit after she claimed her cancer stemmed from using Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Powder in the 1960s and 1970s.
A report lodged by Reuters in late 2018 revealed that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that its baby powder products were contaminated by asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral known to cause cancer, but the company failed to disclose that information to the general public. As a result, thousands of people are now filing ovarian cancer and mesothelioma related lawsuits against Johnson and Johnson.
The talcum powder lawsuits claim Johnson and Johnson knew for years their talc was contaminated by asbestos fibers, which have been proven to cause mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
In July 2018, a lawsuit involving 22 women were each awarded approximately $213 million, and Johnson and Johnson lost their bid to overturn that verdict in late December 2018.
In December 2018, the company lost two other cases in California and New Jersey. These lawsuits were brought by people with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of internal organs associated with asbestos.
Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuit
The first talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit brought against Johnson & Johnson in a federal court happened in 2013. A lawyer representing Johnson and Johnson in the lawsuit at the time admitted executives had known about the association between baby powder and ovarian cancer for many years.
In spite of these findings, Johnson and Johnson did not deem the risk of developing ovarian cancer and mesothelioma significant enough; therefore, omitted to provide a warning label on their baby powder of the possible links of talc to cancer.
Missouri Court Awards Billions
An appellate court in Missouri upheld more than $2 billion in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson in June 2020, saying the company knew there was asbestos in its baby powder. The decision slashed a record award of $4.69 billion in compensatory and punitive damages by half, which was made in July 2018.
The court awarded $500 million in actual damages and $1.62 billion in punitive damages, reducing the original award of $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages after the court dismissed claims made by some of the plaintiffs.
The Lawsuits Continue with Talc Powder
Talcum powder lawsuits are not only confined to women. There is an instance where a talc lawsuit was filed by a male with testicular cancer who frequently used the product. In some cases, family members have filed wrongful death claims for the loss of a loved one from mesothelioma or ovarian cancer.
Since 2013, in several high profile trials, at least six verdicts have come from Missouri courts. Six of these verdicts have gone in favor of the plaintiffs, with five resulting in awards totaling over $724 million.
Thousands of lawsuits are still awaiting trials, including a class-action lawsuit. As of Sept. 15, 2020, Johnson and Johnson faces more than 20,000 cases consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Hundreds more are pending in state courts, alleging that Johnston’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower talc-based products can cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
If you have a cancer diagnosis and suspect the use of talc or Johnson’s baby powder may be the cause, contact us today for a free case review.