Johnson & Johnson knew its talcum products, such as Shower to Shower baby powder, could cause ovarian cancer but failed to warn consumers of this risk, and as a result, a woman’s longtime use of the products contributed to her developing the deadly disease, a South Dakota jury has found.

Deane Berg was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, after using Johnson & Johnson brand talcum-based products for hygiene purposes during a 30-year period. After she was diagnosed, three different doctors examined Deane’s cancerous tissue with a scanning electron microscope and found talc. The doctors concluded that the talc came from the baby powder Deane’ used on a regular basis.

Daniel Cramer, a medical doctor with Harvard University, was one of the three doctors who examined Deane’s cancerous tissue. He has studied the link between talc and cancer for 30 years and believes that talc is likely the cause for as many as 2,200 cases of ovarian cancer each year.

Talc is a mineral that contains various elements including magnesium, silicon and oxygen. It can also contain asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs. Talc is often ground down into a fine powder, called talcum powder, and used to absorb moisture. It is widely used in cosmetic products such as baby powder and facial powder.

Researchers have raised concerns about whether regular use of talcum powder in the genital area increases the risk of women developing ovarian cancer if the particles were to travel through the vagina, uterus and fallopian tubes to the ovaries. Even the American Cancer Society has cautioned about the potential risks.

The evidence was enough to convince the jury in Deane’s case that there was a link between baby powder and ovarian cancer. However, Johnson & Johnson escaped damages in the case. Deane’s attorneys called for the consumer health care giant to step up and add warnings to the labels of its talc-containing products, but Johnson & Johnson refused, saying it was unnecessary to alarm consumers.

Source: Law 360



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