Talcum Powder Litigation Overview
What is Talcum Powder? Why is there litigation?
What is Talcum Powder?
Talc (also known as “talcum powder”) is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined out of the ground from a quarry. Talc is the softest mineral (it can be easily scratched with a fingernail), chemically inert, and odorless. Talc is also moisture-absorbent. Due to its unusual properties, talc has many industrial purposes.
What’s the story?
According to the lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson has been aware since the 1950s that its iconic baby powder is tainted with asbestos and hid this from consumers. Asbestos is extremely toxic to humans and can cause an aggressive and deadly form of cancer called “mesothelioma” with as little as one single lifetime exposure.
Injuries Caused by Talcum Powder
About 1 in 70 women living in the United States will develop ovarian cancer. According to epidemiological studies, Talc use is associated with worse odds: 1 in 53. Ovarian cancer is among the most deadly cancers. Some 20,000 women are diagnosed yearly, often after the disease has spread. The symptoms are easily dismissed as menstrual or abdominal discomfort. There’s no regular screening for ovarian cancer and no well-established causes (only risk factors). Some research suggests cancer may begin outside the ovaries at the end of the fallopian tubes. More than 14,000 women die from the disease every year.
In 1982 a study in the journal Cancer by Daniel Cramer (an epidemiologist and an expert witness for the plaintiffs) showed the first statistical link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. Soon after the study was published, Cramer received a call from Bruce Semple, an executive at J&J. The two met in Boston.
“Dr. Semple spent his time trying to convince me that talc use was a harmless habit while I spent my time trying to persuade him to consider the possibility that my study could be correct and that women should be advised of this potential risk of talc.”
-Cramer, in a 2011 court filing
Over the years, more studies have been performed on the link between talc and ovarian cancer, and more will be performed in the future. Although few regulatory or advisory agencies officially consider pure talc to be a known human carcinogen, our position is that enough evidence exists for Johnson & Johnson to warn users about the danger of cancer.