For decades, women have been concerned about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, but this week Johnson & Johnson, one of the major makers of talcum powder, was dealt a major blow.
On Monday night, jurors in St. Louis awarded the family of Jacqueline Fox $72 million in damages. Fox, who lived in Birmingham, Ala., died from ovarian cancer that was linked to her use of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.
Shower to Shower in particular has been shown in past studies to have a high concentration of talc. Talc is an asbestos-like substance which in its natural form may contain cancer causing asbestos.
Any talcum products used in homes in the United States have been asbestos-free since the 1970s. But in an analysis conducted in 2000, researchers found that the slight link between ovarian cancer and talc exposure could be attributed to asbestos contamination.
The FDA tested many cosmetic products containing talc and found no asbestos detected, but the results were limited because only four talc suppliers submitted samples and not every product on the market that contains talc was tested. There was no definitive proof that most or all talc or talc-containing cosmetic products currently marketed in the United States are free of asbestos contamination.
There have been hundreds of lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson claiming that for decades the company did not warn consumers about the potential link between talc-based products and cancer. Though some cases have made it to U.S. courts, this is the first time a jury has awarded damages over claims.
Sounds like big tobacco all over again, right?
Fox had used the powders for more than 35 years for feminine hygiene. She was 62 when she died in October. At the end of the three-week trial, jurors found Johnson & Johnson liable for fraud, negligence and conspiracy, said lawyers. Could this be a new precedent for those hundreds of cases pending?
The list of products containing talc is long — body powders, blush, face powders, eyeshadow, etc. Anyone concerned about talc exposure should look for powders and other products that contain cornstarch as an alternative. Researchers have found that Cornstarch cannot biologically cause cancer.