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Talcum powder: your parents might have dusted it on your bottom when you were in infant, or you've used it to prevent chaffing while working out. Also known as talc powder or baby powder, the soft, seemingly harmless white powder is so ubiquitous that most adults have probably come into contact with it at one point or another, and likely didn't give it much thought.
However, studies linking talcum powder use to lung problems and an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers are causing many to reconsider their use of these popular powders and other products containing talc.
If you or a loved one was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, lung cancer, or a lung-related injury after using a talc product, the McGartland Law Firm is here to help. We are currently reviewing talcum-powder cases, and we would be happy to answer your questions about your rights as a consumer. For your free case consultation, call today.
What is Talcum Powder?
Talcum powder is made from very finely ground talc, a mineral made up of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. When ground into a powder, talc is excellent at absorbing moisture and reducing friction, and is commonly used to help prevent rashes and keep skin in the more moisture-prone areas of the body clean and dry. Baby Powder and Shower to Shower—both manufactured by Johnson & Johnson—are two of the most popular body powder products made of talc.
Talcum Powder Uses and Products
Talcum powder has a number of uses and is found in so many common cosmetic and household products that most people will have likely come into contact with it at some point. For example, talcum powder can be dusted all over the body for use as an antiperspirant/deodorant, and is often patted on infants' bottoms, as its moisture-absorbing and anti-friction qualities help to prevent diaper rash.
Additionally, talcum powder has long been marketed to women as a feminine hygiene product designed to absorb excess moisture, discourage vaginal odors, prevent chaffing, and keep the genital area clean and cool.
In addition to its use as a body powder, talcum powder can also be found in a number of consumer products, including:
Cosmetics, such as foundation, eye shadow, and pressed and loose face powders
Contraceptives, such as diaphragms and condoms
Foods, when used as a separating agent and carrier for food coloring
Flea and tick powders
Baby Powder Problems, Side Effects, and Risks
Though the use of talcum powder was considered harmless and even beneficial for decades, studies from as far back as the 1970s suggest a link between the use of talc and serious health problems. Unfortunately, the risks associated with using talcum powder are just now becoming well known. Health problems associated with talcum powder use include:
Respiratory problems – When talc particles are released into the air and subsequently breathed into the lungs, they can cause various respiratory problems and symptoms, such as coughing, asthma, wheezing, fast or shallow breathing, inflammation, and chronic lung irritation. Because infants are particularly susceptible to these respiratory issues, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends the use of talcum powder for infant care.
Reproductive issues – A woman who regularly applies talc-based powders to her genital area has an increased risk of developing reproductive cancers, such as ovarian cancer. When applied to the genital area, the talc particles can travel into the vagina and uterus, eventually reaching the ovaries. As the particles travel, they may cause serious inflammation and even scar tissue.
Mesothelioma – in it’s natural state, talc has been found to contain asbestos, a mineral known to cause a deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma.
When it comes to talcum powder use, some individuals may be more prone to side effects than others. People who are already sensitive to respiratory ailments may find that using talcum powder triggers their asthma or causes pneumonia.
Also, a person's risk of developing serious chronic respiratory diseases and lung cancer increases the longer they are exposed to talc. Thus, miners and millers involved with the talc-making process may be even more likely to experience serious side effects than the average user.
Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Risk
Johnson & Johnson is widely considered a trusted household name, and the company’s talc products have been heavily marketed to adult females in the past. Talcum-powder products, like Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower to Shower, have a long history of use in feminine hygiene. Many thousands of women across the United States, at some point in their lives, have used these products in the genital area, either as a body powder or as a component of tampons, diaphragms, or condoms. Unfortunately studies show that the use of talcum-powder products in the female genital area may be associated with an increased risk for ovarian cancer.
Based on the presence of talcum powder particles discovered in ovarian biopsies, doctors theorize that talc enters the vagina, uterus, and upper reproductive track, causing painful inflammation that eventually leads to the development of ovarian cancer. The Epidemiology study found that using talcum powder in the genital area can increase a woman's risk of ovarian cancer by one third. Additionally, studies from as far back as the 1970s have noted the presence of talc particles embedded in ovarian cancer tumors and pelvic lymph nodes.
Ovarian cancer is a serious disease that starts in the ovaries and can spread to other areas of the body. As the eighth most common type of cancer, it accounts for three percent of all cancers in women. Approximately 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The American Cancer Society states ovarian cancer claims the lives of more than 14,000 women in the United States each year. Ovarian cancer patients have a variety of treatment options, including surgical procedures, and chemotherapy or radiation treatments. However, late-stage ovarian cancer can be difficult to treat and is often fatal.
A 2015 retrospective case-control study linked the use of talc powder products to ovarian cancer. Conducted by researchers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and published in the journal Epidemiology, the study asked 2,041 women with ovarian cancer and 2,100 without about their talcum powder use and found that women who regularly used talc products had an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
There are a number of people who believe women should have already been notified that using talcum powder may pose a dangerous risk for cancer. But, a warning about talcum powder ovarian cancer risks has never been included in the packaging with talc products. After numerous studies showing the potential cancer link, lawsuits have now been filed against Johnson & Johnson, claiming that the company knew about the risk for decades and chose not to warn their customers. In fact, some evidence suggests that the company should have been aware of the dangers after a study in 1971.
The manufacturers of health and hygiene products have a duty to research their products, make sure they are safe, and warn the public of potential side effects and complications. When they fail to do so, victims of these dangerous products and their families have the right to hold the companies responsible for what has happened to them.
Asbestos in Talcum Powder
Baby powder is made of talc, one of the softest minerals on Earth. However, in its natural form, some talc actually contains asbestos, a mineral known to cause cancer. Exposure to asbestos has caused millions over the years to develop life threating injuries including mesothelioma, a severe and rare form of cancer only known to be caused by asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma develops when asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested in the body and lodge themselves in a thin layer of tissue known as mesothelium, which covers most the body’s internal organs. The asbestos fibers irritate and rub the skin they are implanted in, causing the development of tumors leading to cancer.
Mesothelioma is so rare because the only known cause is from asbestos exposure. The FDA has been investigating asbestos in talcum powder cosmetic products since 2018, testing nearly 50 products so far. In 2019, Johnson & Johnson issued a massive recall of their baby powder after the FDA discovered sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos in J&J baby powder, impacting nearly 30,000 bottles.
For decades J&J denied that any of their talc products contained asbestos, but this recent discovery by health officials has caused retailers to pull Johnson & Johnson baby powder from their shelves and consumers to fear of developing mesothelioma from their baby powder use.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits
Talcum powder manufacturers insist the products are safe, but injured consumers disagree. Some individuals allege that manufacturers specifically hid dangers and risks associated with talc powder use from their customers.
As a result, Johnson & Johnson was named in thousands of product liability cases brought by customers who claim that using the company's talcum powder products gave them ovarian cancer or mesothelioma from asbestos exposure. Several of these cases have already gone to court and been decided in favor of the plaintiffs, including a California case that ended in August 2017 with a record $417 million verdict.
As the manufacturer of popular talcum powder products, Johnson & Johnson is facing more than 2,500 lawsuits from customers in the United States who claim they weren't warned about the risks associated with the use of talc products. Juries sided with plaintiffs in several recent cases, awarding million in damages against Johnson & Johnson:
February 2016: A St. Louis, Missouri jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer after using the company's talc products for 35 years, citing the company's failure to disclose the potential dangers of the products.
May 2016: A jury in St. Louis, Missouri ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $55 million in damages to a South Dakota woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using the talc-based baby powder for more than 35 years.
October 2016: A jury in St. Louis, Missouri awarded a California woman $70 million in damages, agreeing with her claim that using the talcum powder for feminine hygiene on a daily basis for 45 years caused her to develop stage 4 ovarian cancer.
May 2017: A St. Louis, Missouri jury awarded $110.5 million in damages to a Virginia woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer she claimed was caused by using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder for more than 40 years. The award included compensatory and punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson, as well as punitive damages against the company's talc supplier, Imerys Talc.
August 2017: A Los Angeles jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million in damages to a California woman who was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer after using the company's talcum powder products daily since the 1950s. The sum is the largest awarded to a plaintiff in a Johnson & Johnson talcum powder case so far.
June 2019: A New York jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay an extra $300 million in punitive damages to a woman whose mesothelioma was caused by asbestos in J&J talcum powder.
October 2019: A California woman was awarded $40.3 million by a jury for her mesothelioma diagnosis, which was allegedly caused by exposure to Johnson & Johnson talcum powder.
February 2020 – Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $750 million to four plaintiffs claiming they developed mesothelioma from asbestos in J&J baby powder.
Did you Experience Side Effects from Using Talcum Powder?
For some people, the use of talcum powder was part of their daily routine for many years. These people trusted the companies that produced and sold the powder to provide a safe product. Unfortunately, these loyal customers may now suffer from a host of health problems related to short- and long-term use of talcum powder.
Fortunately, people who have experienced serious side effects may not have to bear the financial burden of their injuries on their own. Texas law allows those who were harmed by dangerous or defective products to file a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for damages, including medical bills, lost wages due to time missed from work, pain and suffering, and more. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you explore legal options.
Did your use of talcum powder or other talc products cause adverse health effects? If so, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the product's manufacturer to seek compensation for your injuries. McGartland Law Firm can explore your legal rights and are prepared to help you fight for the financial award you need and deserve. Complete our online contact form today and we'll schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.