Next to toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant, talcum powder might be one of the most common hygienic products found in bathrooms all over the planet. For generations, people have been using the powder to keep their skin dry. Most who use it probably think it’s one of the most benign products you could put on your body too. The truth, though, is that there have been lawsuits filed on behalf of customers who claim they suffered from using this extremely popular type of powder.
What Is Talcum Powder?
Even as common as it is, a lot of people – even many who use it every single day – don’t know what talcum powder is. To put it simply, it’s powder made from a mineral called talc. This mineral is mainly made up of oxygen, silicon, and magnesium. When applied to the body as a powder, it’s meant to absorb moisture and help reduce friction between the skin or the skin and clothes. It can also cut down on rashes, which is why it’s so often used on babies.
Talcum Powder and Cancer
The interesting thing about talcum powder is that it’s not known to have any side effects. It’s just a powder that makes life a bit easier. However, there is one side effect that has been linked to talcum powder for over 40 years now. It was back in the 70s that doctors began suspecting that this powder could potentially cause cancer in the reproductive system.
Despite the fact that the first study on the matter reaches to 1971, there hasn’t been much in the way of proof to substantiate a court case. Manufacturers of talcum powder, most notably Johnson & Johnson (the company’s director of scientific affairs, Dr. Frederick B. Kilmer, invented the first version of talcum powder), largely escaped prosecution and mainly reacted by conducting more studies that they could use as evidence of no wrongdoing.
The first lawsuit regarding talcum powder didn’t get filed until 2009. A physician assistant from Sioux Falls, South Dakota named Diane Berg was diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years earlier when she was only 49-years-old. The woman was a lifelong user of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder, which she would sprinkle into her underwear.
Once she discovered the long history of accusations, she filed a lawsuit, only to have Johnson & Johnson offer her $1.3 million to settle out of court. When she learned she would need to sign a confidentiality agreement, the woman declined.
Johnson & Johnson Finally Pays Up
Even though a South Dakota jury would later rule in her favor, Berg would never receive any financial compensation.
Instead, it would be two judges in St. Louis who eventually ordered that Johnson & Johnson pay out $127 million to two families who had been affected by the product. In one of the cases, the company was found guilty of conspiracy, negligence, and failure to warn customers of the increased risks of cancer talcum powder represents to women when it is applied to the genitals.
An Uncertain Connection
If the above seems a bit unclear, you’re not alone. Johnson & Johnson has since appealed the ruling against them. Furthermore, the only reason they lost is that of an internal correspondence that was presented to the courts. In this document, a medical consultant suggests to the company that denying the risk of cancer could end up hurting their image.
Therefore, the reason Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay out is that they knew there was a potential risk and didn’t say anything. That is a crime, but that doesn’t prove there is an actual risk associated with using talcum powder.
There are some challenges that come with testing something like talcum powder, which isn’t a drug, so it could be many more decades before we ever learn about the actual risk factors posed by its side effects.
Still, if you want to be on the safe side, you might consider switching over to cornstarch-based products. Johnson & Johnson even sells one.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits
If you believe that your past use of talcum powder has left you at a heightened risk for cancer, speak with a doctor right away. After that – if your suspicions turn out to be true – you will want to look up an attorney with experience handling talcum-powder-related lawsuits.