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Talcum Powder Lawsuits

Courtroom Wide ViewWomen across the nation are considering filing a talcum powder lawsuit after developing potentially deadly ovarian and other types of cancer. Attorneys are now of the belief that the makers of many talcum powder-based consumer items have long been aware of the hazards posed to women who use the products for feminine hygiene purposes, yet failed to warn the public about the risks.

As awareness of this suspected link continues to grow, the volume of talc litigation finding its way into the courts is almost certain to rise.

Talc powder uses, research findings form basis of lawsuits

Derived from a mineral composed largely of magnesium, oxygen and silicon, talcum powder is used to reduce friction and absorb moisture. Numerous cosmetic products contain talcum powder, including many intended for feminine hygiene applications. Public watchdog groups have sounded alarms about such uses, as growing numbers of women have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after prolonged use of the powders in their perineal regions. It is thought that continued exposure of this type allowed talc to travel to the fallopian tubes, the ovaries as well as the uterus.

Though it has been in use for centuries, talc has been the subject of multiple research studies which have raised red flags about its safety under certain circumstances. Perhaps the most startling of these studies came in 1971, in which it was reported that roughly three-fourths of all examined ovarian tumors were found to contain talc. In 2013, a study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research found that women who routinely used talcum powder products faced an increased ovarian cancer risk of between 20-30% over females who avoided them.

Absence of product warnings raises concerns

Though there has been at the very least a strong suspicion of a connection between the use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer, the FDA has been slow to take action. The agency has issued no mandates for talcum powder product manufacturers to adjust labeling or issue warnings, and no such requirements appear forthcoming. Consumer advocates have called for such steps to be taken, but those efforts have proven futile. Personal product giant Johnson & Johnson has unflinchingly denied any link between talcum powder and cancer and has asserted that any theoretical risk is so miniscule that no additional warnings are needed. 

Early talcum powder lawsuits

In ever-increasing numbers, women who have used talcum powder products and were subsequently diagnosed with ovarian cancer are exploring their legal options. Several developments in cases around the country underscore the contentious nature of this litigation and hint at the lawsuits still to be filed. In 2013, the first significant talcum powder case went to trial and a South Dakota jury found that the plaintiff did indeed develop ovarian cancer as a result of using a Johnson & Johnson talcum powder-based product for feminine hygiene purposes. In that trial, an Harvard-affiliated expert witness stated his belief that at least 10,000 cases of ovarian cancer can likely be attributed, at least partly, to talc.

In May of 2015, a Los Angeles jury found in favor of a 73-year-old plaintiff who alleged that she developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to a talcum powder personal care product that contained asbestos. The woman was awarded $13 million by the jury, which found Colgate Palmolive, the maker of the product at issue, 95% responsible for the cancer diagnosis. The monetary award is intended to provide compensation to the plaintiff and her husband for, among other things, medical expenses, pain and suffering and diminished life expectancy.

A federal court judge in Missouri recently ruled that conspiracy claims lodged by a talcum powder plaintiff against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc America in their roles as members of the “Personal Care Products Counsel’s Talc Interested Party Task Force” could proceed. The plaintiff, the husband of a woman who died of ovarian cancer after years of talcum powder use, alleged that the defendants had full, detailed knowledge of the cancer risks, yet illegally took concrete steps to conceal it while failing to warn consumers. 

Future of talc litigation 

Currently, well over 700 talcum powder cases are pending in courts nationwide, with many more expected in the coming months and years. With such large numbers of plaintiffs continuing to make common allegations that the manufacturers of these products were negligent in their failure to warn of known risks, that they took steps to downplay the dangers and sold and marketed a product understood to pose cancer risks, it is highly possible that consolidation of these cases may occur in the form of multidistrict litigation (MDL).

Though a class action talc lawsuit filed in California was recently dismissed, the reason was that the plaintiffs had not in fact developed cancer and thus had minimal damage claims. Federal court plaintiffs with actual cancer diagnoses combined with common claims against the manufacturers, however, may ultimately see their cases coordinated for purposes of judicial economy, consistency of rulings and facilitation of individual settlements.

  1. Cancer Prevention Research, Genital powder use and risk of ovarian cancer: a pooled analysis of 8,525 caes and 9,859 controls,

  2. American Cancer Society, Talcum Powder and Cancer,

  3. US News, Jury Awards Woman $13 Million for Asbestos Exposure

  4. Madison-St. Clair Record, Personal Care Products dismissed form lawsuit alleging baby powder caused ovarian cancer,