Ovarian Cancer Risk From Baby Powder Known by J&J For Decades, Lawsuit Alleges

An Illinois woman joins a growing number of women nationwide now pursuing a product liability lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, alleging that the manufacturer has withheld information for decades about the link between ovarian cancer and Baby Powder use for feminine hygiene purposes.

The complaint was filed by Judith Harlan late last month in Madison County Circuit Court, pursuing claims against the makers of Johnson’s Baby Powder, as well as Talc America, Personal Care Produces Council f/k/a/ Luzenac America Inc., and Walgreens, which are all involved in the manufacture, marketing or sale of the popular talcum powder product.

According to the talcum powder lawsuit, Harlan used Johnson’s Baby Powder as a feminine hygiene product from 1964 until 2013, which allegedly resulted in her recent diagnosis with ovarian cancer.

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Talcum Powder Lawsuits

Talcum powder or talc powder may cause women to develop ovarian cancer.

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Harlan accuses Johnson & Johnson of knowing that talc contained within Johnson’s Baby Powder increased the risk of ovarian cancer when used around genitals, but alleges that the company failed to adequately warn women or the medical community.

In recent years, increasing evidence has emerged about the ovarian cancer risk with Baby Powder, finding that the talcum powder may migrate through the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries, with evidence of talc found within some ovarian tumors diagnosed among regular users of Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower-to-Shower products.

Harlan’s complaint is one of a growing number of ovarian cancer lawsuits over talcum powder, which some experts have suggested may be responsible for thousands of cases of cancer diagnosed nationwide each year.

Talcum Powder Litigation

All of the complaints involve similar allegations, claiming that the manufacturer knew or should have known about the link between talc and ovarian cancer for decades, but continued to market the products for feminine hygiene purposes for years and failed to provide any warnings for women or the medical community.

The only warnings provided with Johnnson’s Baby Powder have indicated that users should avoid contact with the eyes and keep the powder away from the faces of children to avoid inhalation, according to the lawsuits. However, plaintiffs maintain that evidence about the ovarian cancer risk with talcum powder has been available to the manufacturers for decades, with studies published in the 1970s finding evidence of talc particles embedded in ovarian tumors.

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, or consider using cornstarch-based products instead.

In June 2013, a study published in the medical journal Cancer Prevention Research indicated that women who used genital powder containing talc may face a 20% to 30% higher risk of ovarian cancer than those who do not. While the overall risk remains small, women have expressed concerns about why further research has not been done by the manufacturers, and why warnings have not been provided about the possible health risks.

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 similar 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. Plaintiffs in that case allege that the manufacturer has known for decades about the risk of ovarian cancer, yet the only warnings indicate that users should avoid contact with eyes and keep the powder away from the faces of children to avoid inhalation.

Harlan is pursuing claims for strict liability, failure to warn, negligence, breach of warranty and civil conspiracy, seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.

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