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Johnson & Johnson faces yet another class action over talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder, which alleges that use of the product for feminine hygiene may cause women to develop ovarian cancer.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Barbara Mihalich in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on May 23, seeking class action status to include all Illinois customers who have purchased Johnson’s Baby Powder in the state.
According to allegations raised by Mihalich, Johnson’s Baby Powder has been marketed as a safe means of “eliminating friction on skin and absorbing moisture, while keeping the skin cool and comfortable.” The talc powder has been marketed not only for use on infants, but also for women to use anytime they want “skin to feel soft, fresh and comfortable,” according to the complaint.
Mihalich indicates that Johnson’s Baby Powder is not safe, as several studies have demonstrated use of talc powder to a woman’s genital areas may significantly increase their risk of ovarian cancer.
“Despite the potential catastrophic health consequence, Defendants do not tell consumers about the dangers associated with talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder,” according to the complaint. “Instead, Defendants continue to expressly and impliedly represent that the product is safe and intended for women to use the Baby Powder in the very manner most likely to result in an increased risk of ovarian cancer.”
The talc powder class action lawsuit seeks injunctive relief under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and to stop Johnson & Johnson from engaging in “deceptive and fraudulent commercial practices.”
Talc Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits
Although Mihalich indicates that she is not claiming physical harm or seeking the recovery of personal injury or other monetary damages, the complaint comes amid a growing number of talc powder lawsuits filed on behalf of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using Johnson’s Baby Powder or other similar products for feminine hygiene.
While baby powder is most commonly associated with use to prevent diaper rash or sooth skin, a number of women use the talc-based powder on their body after a shower. As a result of the popularity of this use, Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers have sold similar products as a general body powder, including Johnson Shower-to-Shower powder.
Talc has been used as a body powder for a long time, but concerns have increased in recent years about the potential risk of ovarian cancer when baby powder is applied to the female genitals. Researchers have indicated that the baby powder may migrate through the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries, with evidence of talc found within some ovarian tumors.
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.
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 similar class action over talc Baby Powder was filed last month in California, 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.
As more women diagnosed with ovarian cancer learn about the potential link with their prior use of Baby Powder, a number are now considering talc powder injury lawsuits, claiming that the manufacturer placed their desire for profits before consumer safety by withholding the potential risk information from consumers.