Talc in Johnson’s Baby Powder Determined To Be “Probably Carcinogenic” By World Health Organization

IARC finds talc "exhibits key characteristics of carcinogens in human primary cells" that increases the risk of ovarian cancer.

Even without being contaminated by asbestos, exposure to talc in Johnson’s Baby Powder probably increases the risk of cancer, particularly ovarian cancer, according to a new assessment by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Following years of concerns about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, researchers with WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have now determined that there is enough evidence between studies on humans and animals, as well as how talc interacts with the body, to conclude that the substance is probably a cancer-causing agent.

The findings were published in The Lancet Oncology on July 5, following a string of scientific studies and evaluations that have suggested the risk of cancer from talc has been underestimated for decades.

As a result of the manufacturers’ failure to previously warn about this risk, tens of thousands of women are now pursuing Johnson’s Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, indicating that false and misleading information has been provided for decades about the safety of applying talc around the genitals.

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

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In addition to the study published in The Lancet this week, the IARC also released a monograph detailing its assessment of both talc and acrylonitrile.

The IARC evaluation has led WHO to determine that talc is “probably carcinogenic” to humans, giving it a Group 2A classification, which is the second highest level of certainty that a substance can cause cancer.

That evidence came from both human and animal studies, and “strong mechanistic evidence that talc exhibits key characteristics of carcinogens in human primary cells and experimental systems,” the monograph states.

“There were numerous studies that consistently showed an increase in the incidence of ovarian cancer in humans self-reporting the use of body powder in the perineal region,” the IARC researchers determined. “Although the evaluation focused on talc not containing asbestos, contamination of talc with asbestos could not be excluded in most of the studies of exposed humans.”

The IARC report found that while most talc exposures occur through cosmetics, there is a higher risk for those who mine, process or add talc to products during manufacturing.

The findings come just a couple months after U.S. researchers with the National Institutes of Health warned that genital talcum powder use was linked to a 17% increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Additionally, in 2019, a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found talc in the tissue of nine out of 10 ovarian cancer patients who used Johnson & Johnson products.

Another study, published that same year, warned that researchers found a 9% increased risk of ovarian cancer among women who used talcum powder, which they deemed to be statistically significant. However, Johnson & Johnson has continued to dispute the findings, maintaining that their talc-based products do not cause ovarian cancer.

July 2024 Talcum Powder Lawsuits Update

The findings come after years of litigation over the risk of cancer from talcum powder, including multiple jury verdicts that ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay millions in financial compensation to women who used their products.

Rather than attempting to negotiate settlements with an estimated 60,000 women still awaiting their day in court, Johnson & Johnson has made two failed attempts to force the litigation into the U.S. bankruptcy system, by transferring all liability it owes for failing to warn about the link between talc and cancer into a new subsidiary, which them promptly filed for bankruptcy. However, federal judges rejected both efforts, noting that the parent company Johnson & Johnson faced no real financial distress from the litigation, and has sufficient assets to settle the claims.

In May, Johnson & Johnson proposed a third bankruptcy attempt, including a $6.5 billion settlement to resolve all current and future Baby Powder lawsuits involving women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which makes up the bulk of litigation the company currently faces. However, plaintiffs’ lawyers have again roundly rejected the effort, indicating that the amount of the settlement is insufficient to compensate women who relied on the safety of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products, as well as future claims the company may face.

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