A recent baby powder lawsuit made the argument that Johnson & Johnson should have a baby powder warning on their various products to tell customers about the elevated risk of talcum powder use and ovarian cancer.
According to the plaintiff in the lawsuit, she used J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower powders from 1975 to 2014. That was when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In her legal complaint, she stated that her use of baby powder products caused her to develop cancer, but she did not know about the risks.
First Clinical Study on Talc in Ovarian Cancer
The first study looking at talcum powder and ovarian cancer was done in 1971 in the UK. In 1982, the initial epidemiologic study was done by Daniel Cramer, MD, and several other clinical researchers. His clinical study determined that women who used baby powder in the perineal area were at a 92% higher risk to develop ovarian cancer.
After Cramer’s study, he and an employee at J&J discussed the results. Cramer recommended that a talcum powder safety warning be put on the products. But because the FDA does not require testing of cosmetics for selling them to the public, no safety warnings on these products are required.
Since that 1982 study, there have been at least 27 epidemiologic studies that looked at a link between talc and ovarian cancer. Most of these studies have shown that using talc in the genital region can boost the risk of getting ovarian cancer.
FDA Studies on Asbestos in Talcum Powder Products
FDA has conducted a small study in 2009 of talc-containing cosmetic products, with 34 different cosmetic products selected, including:
- Body powder
- Face powder
- Eye shadow
The FDA survey of the small sample of products did not find any asbestos fibers or structures in any samples of talc-containing products. But FDA notes the results of the survey were very limited. Only four talc suppliers gave samples, and there were only a few products tested.
For these reasons, FDA stated at the time that the results were informative, but offered no proof that most or all talc-containing products in the US are not contaminated with asbestos. (FDA.gov)
At this point, FDA has only concluded that a small sample of talcum-based products do not contain asbestos. It has made no further statements about the possible dangers of talcum powder without asbestos, despite the many lawsuits pending against J&J alleging its baby powder products with or without asbestos contamination cause ovarian cancer.
For example, J&J was recently ordered to pay $300 million in punitive damages in a talc baby powder case. It was alleged that J&J internal documents show that the company has covered up the fact that asbestos is found in some of its products. Still, the company denies it and no safety warnings have been issued. (CNBC.com)
J&J Will Not Put Safety Warning On Its Baby Powder Products
Even though there is plenty of damning scientific evidence available, J&J has refused to put a warning on its baby powder products. Also, the company continues to portray all of their talc-based products as safe. They even specifically target women who might use the product in the perineal area.
Plaintiffs have argued that J&J uses many slogans to promote their product as safe:
- ‘For you, use every day to help to feel soft, fresh and comfortable.’
- ‘A sprinkle a day keeps the odor away.’
- ‘Your body perspires in more areas than just under your arms.’
- ‘Use Shower to Shower to feel dry, fresh and comfortable throughout the day.’
- ‘Shower to Shower can be used all over your body.’
Such representations, combined with the lack of a talcum powder safety warning, can induce many women to think that all J&J talc powder products are safe and can be used freely on the female genitals. It is argued that the consequences of such misleading representations can result in women getting ovarian cancer.
According to that baby powder lawsuit, J&J, through the use of such slogans above, have made express warranties to the plaintiff and the public that their talcum powder products are safe and effective when used all over the body, including on the perineal area of women.
The suit further argues the plaintiff experienced many damages because J&J refuses to put a warning on their baby powder products.
Should You Use Baby Powder?
Given the possible links to ovarian cancer, it is a valid question whether you or your loved ones should use such products. Johnson & Johnson for its part maintains that its products are safe and do not require safety warnings. If you do use baby powder in any capacity, experts recommend the following:
- Do not put baby powder on the genital area. Rather, put a light layer around the genitals and on the legs.
- Do not get baby powder in the eyes.
- Keep the powder away from your face; this can prevent you from inhaling it.
- Shake baby powder onto the hand and keep it away from your face
Also, remember there are several alternatives to talc-based baby powders:
- Arrowroot starch
- Tapioca starch
- Oat flour
- Baking soda
If you think that your ovarian cancer has been caused by exposure to talcum powder, it is important to talk to a licensed personal injury attorney in your area.
Baby Powder Safety. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/is-baby-powder-safe#5
Cosmetic Ingredients. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/talc
J&J Must Pay $300 Million Punitive Award in Talcum Powder Case. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/31/johnson-johnson-must-pay-300-million-punitive-award-in-talc-case-company-will-appeal.html