Talc Recall Urged by Consumers Association of Penang in Malaysia

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Amid mounting concerns about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer worldwide, a consumer group in Malaysia is calling for a ban of all talc-based products in that country, citing a number of safety concerns.

The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) issued a press statement last week to the Malaysian Health Ministry, calling for a talc powder recall and ban on all products containing the substance, indicating that it has been linked to respiratory problems and ovarian cancer, which is the fifth most common form of cancer among women in Malaysia.

“Talc is toxic as its particles can cause tumours in human ovaries and lungs,” CAPO said in the statement. “Talc particles are capable of moving up the reproductive system and embedding themselves in the lining of the ovary.”

The statement notes that research has found talc particles in ovarian tumors and that use of talc appears to increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

The call for the talcum powder ban comes after a landmark verdict of $72 million in damages was awarded last month by a St. Louis jury against Johnson & Johnson, over failure to warn about the talc ovarian cancer risk.

After considering expert witness testimony, evidence and internal documents that demonstrated what Johnson & Johnson known about the safety of talc found in Johnson’s Baby Powder and other products, the jury awarded the family of Jackie Fox $10 million in compensatory damages and ordered the manufacturer to pay an additional $62 million in punitive damages, which are designed to punish the company for recklessly disregarding the safety of women.

In addition to concerns about the link between talc and ovarian cancer, CAP also expressed concerns about the risk of respiratory problems, noting that some studies have shown that thousands of infants die each year or become seriously ill after inhaling baby powder.

The group is urging consumers not to use talcum powder or other talc-based products, indicating that cosmetic powders made from corn starch or rice are safer.

U.S. Talcum Powder Lawsuits

The case filed by the Fox family is one of about 1,200 talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson throughout the United States, each involving similar allegations that the manufacturer placed their desire for profits before consumer safety by withholding information and warnings from consumers and the public in general.

In October 2013, a South Dakota jury heard evidence in a similar case, finding that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn about the risk of ovarian cancer from talcum powder, but no damages were awarded. That case involved a 56 year old woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, with three doctors who examined her cancer tissue indicating that evidence of talc was found in tissue using an electron microscope.

While most of the cases are currently pending in Missouri state court, there are also several hundred filed in New Jersey state court, which is where Johnson & Johnson’s headquarters are based.

In November 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided to centralize the litigation before one judge where the pretrial proceedings will be handled in a manner similar to a talcum powder class action lawsuit, avoiding duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases and potentially contradictory rulings from different judges.

Over the coming months and years, it is expected that additional “bellwether” trials will be scheduled to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. If Johnson & Johnson fails to reach talc powder settlements for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, they could face hundreds of individual trials in courts throughout the U.S.

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