Talcum Powder Litigation

It has been widely reported that the commonly described “baby powder” produced by Johnson & Johnson, which is the parent company and J&J Consumer Companies, Inc., which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, as well as Imerys Talc America, Inc., a mining company and the exclusive supplier of talc powder to Johnson & Johnson, have been named as defendants in the ovarian cancer cases allegedly caused by this talcum powder product. These cases are product liability cases because this household product has been associated with women deadly contracting ovarian cancer.

Talcum powder is actually a compound called magnesium silicate. Magnesium silicate is a mineral that comes from the earth. It has been proved to be harmful to humans because it creates a foreign body reaction and in some cases, chronic inflammation.

The Imerys company’s talc is mined in China.

The use of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder by women have been linked to ovarian cancer. Typically, women having been long-time users of this product may be diagnosed with ovarian cancer at Stages III or IV. Less than 20% of women so diagnosed survive for five years after the diagnosis. Approximately 10% of the ovarian cancer that is annually diagnosed is related to the use of talcum powder.

The usual cases of ovarian cancer caused by Johnson & Johnson’s talc exposure are those women who have used the produce in and around the genitals for more than 6 years in a minimum of 2,400 applications. Considering the length of time, the talc was used and the minimum applications, the diagnosis of ovarian cancer has been the result. The failing of Johnson & Johnson and the other parties knew or should have known of the increased risk of ovarian cancer, but gave no warnings to consumers or end users of the powder talc. The proof of the Johnson & Johnson talc powder defendants was the cause of ovarian cancer is shown in that talc particles have been identified in the tumor tissues of those women afflicted.

According to federal law, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) established warning statements which reads as follows:

“The label of a cosmetic product shall bear a warning statement whenever necessary or appropriate to prevent a health hazard that may be associated with the product.” 21 C.F.R. ¶ 740.1.

According to J&J corporate representative in 1997, in discussion about talc and ovarian cancer wrote: “Trust and safety is the basis of our company reputation and if we believed there was even the slightest risk associated with the normal use of Johnson’s Baby Powder, we would not hesitate to take action.” In short, J&J admits that it was aware of studies that linked the use of talc and ovarian cancer. Medical studies show that more than 20 epidemiologic studies support an association between talc powder use in the genital area and ovarian cancer. The study showed that the more a woman applied the talc to her genital areas, the more likely the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. In fact, it shows that genital use of talc increases risk of ovarian cancer 30-60%. These studies were known for decades, but J&J chose not to warn the public about the risks of ovarian cancer. It appears very likely that J&J and its subsidiaries and the talc mining company had information that would put them on notice regarding the use of talc and the relationship to ovarian cancer. These reports continue to come out and in 1982 a medical study showed that genital exposure to talc raised the risk for ovarian cancer.

In 1992, it was again acknowledged that ovarian cancer has a very poor outcome history. It was written by these physicians and scientists that: Nevertheless, given the poor prognosis for ovarian cancer, any potentially harmful exposure should be avoided, particularly those with limited benefits. For this reason, we discourage the use of talc in genital hygiene, particularly as a daily habit. This is part of a duty that came out July 1, 1992.

In 1994, the Cancer Prevention Coalition wrote to the chief executive officer of J&J. The letter stated: “A wide range of scientific studies dating back to the 1960s shows conclusively that the frequent use of talcum powder in the genital area poses a serious risk of ovarian cancer.

And on it goes, report after report submitted to J&J which continued to ignore these warnings. J&J continued with a defense to these reports of the dangers of talc use. In fact, the only warning on the baby powder container for J&J baby powder was: “WARNING: Keep the powder away from child’s face to avoid inhalation, which can cause breathing problems. Avoid contact with eyes. For external use only.”

It was found that an alternative to J&J baby powder talc is cornstarch powder. It was shown that there was no increased ovarian cancer risk using cornstarch powder.

The proof in the lawsuits filed on behalf of women who have been afflicted with ovarian cancer from long uses of J&J talc, was shown that talc found in the ovarian tissue is evidence for a causal link between the presence of talc and the development of ovarian cancer. Doctors supported this summation in that it was found that the presence of talc in pelvic lymph nodes of women with ovarian cancer and long-term genital exposure to cosmetic talc was established.

In African American women, the risk of ovarian cancer with repeated use of this talc was 400%. Women were at increased risk of ovarian cancer if they had the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation, a family history of ovarian cancer or BRCA, no children, no use of oral contraceptives, endometriosis, use of fertility drugs and the use of genital talc. Those women with reduced risks were those who have had children, were breastfeeding their children, used oral contraceptives, had no family history or genetic mutations or African American heritage with no talc use.

The criteria for women most likely to be victimized by the use of talc are those who used talc for a minimum of 6 years, have been diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer, were diagnosed between the ages of 30-60 years-old, had no immediate family history of breast or ovarian cancer if BRCA was negative.

There are cases filed on behalf of women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer who fit this criteria and model. The cases have been filed in the City of St. Louis where there are 9 cases and 656 plaintiffs. Nationwide there are more than 1,000 cases. Some of these cases will be litigated in federal court and many others in state courts around the country, including Illinois.

If you are someone you love has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and has been a consistent talc powder user for 6 years or more, you very likely may have a right to bring an action for compensation and loss.

Please call Robert Kreisman for an immediate and free consultation. Mr. Kreisman has been a member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976. With more than 40 years of experience in trying and settling product defect cases and now talc powder cases, Chicago's Kreisman Law Offices provides the best possible services to our many clients and has achieved unsurpassed results. Please call us 24 hours a day at 312.346.0045 or toll free 800.583.8002 for a free and immediate consultation, or complete a contact form online.

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