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The family of a New York woman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that talc contained in Johnson’s Baby Powder, Shower-to-Shower Body Powder and GoldBond Powder caused the development of ovarian cancer after years of using the products for feminine hygiene purposes.
The complaint (PDF) was filed earlier this month by the family of Janice Chakalos, who allegedly died of ovarian cancer in 2012, following talcum powder use around her genital area over a period of more than 50 years.
James Chakalos filed the lawsuit on behalf of his wife’s estate in the Superior Court of New Jersey on November 5, but it was removed to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on November 11. Defendants named in the complaint include Johnson & Johnson, as well as several other talcum powder manufacturers, including Sanofi, Imerys Talc, Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Chattem.
According to the lawsuit, the talc was originally mined by Imerys. That talc was used in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Body Powder products, the later of which was eventually marketed by Valeant. It was also used in Gold Bond Powder, which was manufactured by Chattem, a subsidiary of Sanofi.
Chakalos was 63 years old when she died, and the lawsuit indicates that she had used talc powder to dust her genital area since childhood, believing the products were safe. However, the complaint indicates that the studies going back decades have indicated that side effects of talc powder may increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
Talc Powder Ovarian Cancer Risk
The complaint joins a growing number of Johnson’s Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower Body Powder lawsuits filed on behalf of women throughout the U.S., which all raise similar allegations that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn about the danger of applying talc around the genitals.
“Despite the mounting scientific and medical evidence regarding talc use and ovarian cancer that has developed over the past decades, none of Defendants’ warnings on the product label or in other marketing informed Plaintiff that use of the product in the genital area, as was encouraged by Defendants, could lead to an increased risk of ovarian cancer,” according to the lawsuit filed by James Chakalos. “For example, the only warnings on the Baby Powder label are to ‘Keep powder away from child’s face to avoid inhalation, which can cause breathing problems,’ and to ‘[a]void contact with eyes.'”
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, has classified genital use of talc powder as a “possible carcinogen,” and the American Cancer Society has indicated women concerned about the talcum powder cancer risk may want to avoid or limit use by considering cornstarch-based products.
In October 2013, a South Dakota jury found that sufficient evidence was presented during trial to establish a link between Johnson Shower-to-Shower body powder and ovarian cancer developed by a 56 year old woman who had used the product for several decades. During the trial, Harvard University’s Daniel Cramer testified that he has been looking into the links between talc and ovarian cancer for 30 years, and suggested that talcum powder may cause 10,000 cases of ovarian cancer every year.
A Baby Powder class action lawsuit was filed in California in April, seeking to force Johnson & Johnson to properly inform consumers about the potential health risks, including a significantly increased risk of ovarian cancer.
The lawsuit by Chakalos’ family includes charges of failure to warn, designing a defective product, breach of warranty, conspiracy, gross negligence, negligent misrepresentation, wrongful death and loss of consortium. The family seeks both punitive and compensatory damages.