Risk of Ovarian Cancer and Baby Powder Withheld from Women
Information from a legal case provides details about the knowledge that the Johnson & Johnson company had regarding the risk of talc-based baby powder and its link to ovarian Cancer. That knowledge may go back as far as 1971. At the crux of this health safety issues is the fact that the company continued to market baby powder specifically to women, including its popular Shower-to-Shower product, when they potentially knew there was an increased risk of ovarian cancer connected with the use of talc-based products by women.
On March 31, 2016, Bloomberg Businessweek published a special report that points directly to two problems. Baby Powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer, and that Johnson & Johnson likely knew of that risk.
The risk of ovarian cancer increases when women use baby powder products such as Shower-to-Shower around their genitalia, such as the inside of underwear. There is evidence that talc, which is an ingredient in baby powder-based products including Shower-to-Shower, may make its way through the female reproductive track, into the fallopian tubes and into the ovaries, where is may increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
The most common use of talc-based baby powder is as a preventative for diaper rash for babies. Though in an attempt to increase market size, Johnson & Johnson developed talc-based baby powder products that they target marketed to women. The marketing campaigns centered around maintaining “freshness” and based on that market, the Johnson & Johnson Shower-to-Shower product launched to help women achieve that “fresh” feeling. If you grew up in the 1970’s you probably still recall the TV jingle for Shower-to-Shower… Just a sprinkle a day… It is that type of advertising employed by Johnson & Johnson that made their products seem safe and effective for women to use. The legal questions that the jury faced in the Jackie Fox case are whether or not Johnson & Johnson knew of the risk. The CBS article discusses internal documents from Johnson & Johnson that suggests the company knew of the risk. As more cases unfold they may show that Johnson & Johnson deliberately marketed their talc-based products to women despite knowing of the increased risk of ovarian cancer. The jury in the Jackie Fox case had no problem finding fault with Johnson & Johnson as they awarded her family $72 million in damages. The award is a clear message to Johnson & Johnson and the industry.
Industry-wide, there is no warning on any talcum powder product that suggests a potential link to ovarian cancer. Talc, which is a naturally occurring mineral is already linked to lung cancer because it sometimes contains asbestos and may cause debilitating lung disease if inhaled. Today, talc used in manufacturing is free of asbestos, per the FDA , but the fine grains remain a danger to lung tissue. In the general market, talc is used in cosmetics and as a preventative for diaper rash, but it is also marketed
specifically to women to help them control body odor. For that reason, decades of marketing by Johnson & Johnson to women may have put millions of women at an increased risk for ovarian cancer. Shower-to-Shower is a product that is designed for women to use around their genitalia.
Scientific concerns were raised in 1971 when examination of 13 ovarian tumors, by researchers, discovered that ten of those tumors contained talc particles. The research showed deeply embedded talc within those ten tumors. Nearly a decade later, in 1982, researchers again examined ovarian cancer tumors and discovered a statistical link between the increased risk of ovarian cancer and talc when women used talc-based products around their genitalia.
In late February of 2016, a St. Louis jury awarded $72 million in the case of Jackie Fox v. Johnson & Johnson. Jackie Fox died in October of 2015 from ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in March of 2013 and lost that battle in October of 2015. After her death, her son and her attorney continued legal recourse against Johnson & Johnson. Jackie Fox was a long time user of baby powder and the shower-to-shower product. Like many women, Jackie grew up with baby powder as part of their daily hygienic routine. Currently, there are over 1,200 lawsuits that list baby powder and show-to-shower as a contributing factor for women with ovarian cancer. That means there are over 1,200 women currently battling ovarian cancer who used baby powder or Johnson & Johnson’s Shower-to-Shower product as it was designed and marketed. These tragic cases are just the beginning of a legal storm and as word spreads about the risk of ovarian cancer from talc-based baby powder and Shower-to-Shower, more women will come forward with similar claims.
Over the last month, the media focus on this issue remains intense. The key points and questions revolve around how much Johnson & Johnson knew and when the learned of the connection between talc and ovarian cancer. Following the landmark Fox v. Johnson & Johnson verdict, where the jury wasted no time in handing out a massive award, more attention on the link and risk of baby powder and ovarian cancer continues. The award was issued in two parts. According to CBS News, the first part of the awards was for $10 million and covered actual damages. The second part of the award was from $62 million and covered punitive damages.
The convincing evidence in this case, according to jurors, was the internal documents presented as evidence by Fox’s attorney. The documents point out that Johnson & Johnson informed their own team that there was a link between talc and ovarian cancer. If you read the label on baby powder or Shower-to-Shower, the only warning you will find is one that says to avoid using the product around the eyes, inhalation of the powder, and not to use the product where the skin is broken. There is no warning issued by the company that using the product as directed could cause an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Did they break the law?
Right now, Johnson & Johnson needs to reach a baby powder settlement including for their Shower-to-Shower product with women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. There are already 1,200 baby powder lawsuits aimed at the company and those include lawsuits for their shower-to-Shower product. The number of lawsuits will continue to grow as more women and families become more informed about the danger that Johnson & Johnson may have placed them in by not warning consumers of the risk. The next few months will be a hotbed of legal action. It is expected the Johnson & Johnson will appeal the verdict from the Jackie Fox case.