Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer

Minneapolis - St. Paul, Twin Cities, Minnesota & Nationwide

What is talcum powder (talc)?

Talc is a mineral comprised mainly of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. It is widely used in many cosmetic products and powders to prevent wetness, chaffing and rashes. Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has used talc in their Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products for many generations, developing a large and loyal customer-base throughout the years.

Why is talcum powder dangerous?

Studies dating back to 1971 have shown a potential link between talc and ovarian cancer. “Just a sprinkle a day keeps odor away” is what Johnson & Johnson (J&J) told women across the nation since the 1980s, encouraging them to use the powder for genital dusting. The slogan invokes obvious negative connotations regarding the cleanliness of female genitals, but if that isn't enough to ruffle your feathers, consider this: J&J became aware of the potential link in 1982 when executives met with Dr. Daniel Cramer, an epidemiologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston who had published a study on the link between talc and ovarian cancer in the journal Cancer.

Since Dr. Cramer’s 1982 study, over 20 other studies have been published connecting the genital use of talc to ovarian cancer.

  • In 2008, Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Margaret Gates reaffirmed that weekly use of talcum powder for perineal use increases the risk for ovarian cancer by 33%, and daily use by 41%.
  • Cancer Prevention Research published a study in 2013 finding that women have a 20-30% increase in developing ovarian cancer when using talcum powder for the purpose of genital dusting.
  • Dr. Cramer recently published another study showing an overall association between talc use and epithelial ovarian cancer—an association that is stronger in African Americans.

Talcum Powder Trials and Verdicts

  • In a 2013 talcum powder trial, J&J offered plaintiff Deane Berg of South Dakota an out-of-court settlement of $1.3 million for her signature on a confidentiality agreement that would prevent her from discussing her case. In a recent interview with the New York Post, Berg admitted to declining the offer. She wasn’t awarded anything of monetary value by the jury, but as Berg stated, “it was never about the money.”
  • In February 2016, a St. Louis jury returned a verdict of $72 million to the family of Jackie Fox. Fox passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 62 after using J&J’s talc-based products for genital dusting on a daily basis for much of her life.
  • In May 2016, another St. Louis jury returned a verdict of $55 million to Gloria Ristesund and five other plaintiffs. The case was a defense pick. During the trial a J&J marketing tool used to show the company’s plan to sell talc-based products was shown to jurors. The tool resembled a monopoly board. The properties were labeled as different government regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and OSHA, with approval stamps above them if that agency had approved the usage of talc. On each side of the board was a skull and cross-bones warning of danger ahead for the company if litigation ensued regarding the dangers of talc—exposing their not-so-well-kept secret to government agencies and the public.

Johnson & Johnson’s Dangerous Denial

Despite these developments in the case against J&J, the company continues to adamantly deny any link between talc and ovarian cancer and refuses to pull the talc-based products from the market. In two 1997 letters to company officials, toxicologist Alfred P. Wehner, an internal consultant for J&J, attacked the company’s stance on the issue:

“Anybody who denies this [link between talc and ovarian cancer] risks that the talc industry will be perceived by the public like it perceives the cigarette industry: denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”

A cancer diagnosis often leads to a gruesome road for both the patient and their loved ones. Why take even the slightest risk of sending women and their families down that road? These women have been faithful to the J&J brand for years on end. They trusted the product and the company producing it. It’s time for J&J to honor that trust and finally put people over the company’s own pride and profit.  

J&J needs to stop putting pride and profit over people.  

J&J needs to start heeding Dr. Wehner’s advice and admit the truth about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. 

And J&J needs to do it now. 

GoldenbergLaw is here to Help

Over 1,000 claims have been filed across the country against J&J by women who had been faithful to the J&J brand but have now developed ovarian cancer. GoldenbergLaw is currently handling hundreds of these claims in Minnesota and throughout the nation. We have over 30 years of experience litigating mass tort drugs and devices, and are working with some of the top experts in the nation. We understand and possess the resources needed to successfully pursue these cases and hold J&J accountable for their actions.

If you are unfamiliar with the way dangerous product and drug lawsuits work, please visit our FAQ page that explains some terms you may hear, such as “mass tort” or “MDL.” For many injured people seeking an attorney, this is their first time having to look for this type of help. Often, their uncertainty or hesitance comes from not knowing which questions to ask.