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According to allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, side effects of talcum powder used almost daily for feminine hygiene over nearly two decades caused a Mississippi woman to develop ovarian cancer.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Ada Rich-Williams in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi on July 1, alleging that the manufacturer of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower failed to adequately warn consumers about the potential link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
Rich-Williams indicates that she used the products nearly every day for almost 20 years, like millions of other women, and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in March 2008.
The case joins a growing number of Baby Powder Lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits being pursued by women and families nationwide, which allege that the regular and consistent use of the products in the underwear and around the genitals caused talc to migrate through the vagina and increased caused the development of ovarian cancer.
While the lawsuit alleges that Johnson & Johnson has known about the ovarian cancer risks from talcum powder for decades, Rich-Williams and other women indicate that they are just recently discovering that their diagnosis may have been caused by their daily use of talc.
Rich-Williams indicates that she would not have used talcum powder for feminine hygiene if she had known about the cancer risks, indicating that safer alternatives were available.
“At all pertinent times, a feasible alternative to the Products has existed,” the lawsuit states. “For example, cornstarch is an organic carbohydrate that is quickly broken down by the body with no known health effects. Cornstarch powders have been sold and marketed for the same uses as the Products with nearly the same effectiveness.”
Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Risks Went Unreported by Johnson & Johnson
So far this year, at least two similar cases brought on behalf of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer following daily use of talcum powder have gone before juries nationwide, each resulting in multi-million dollar damage awards as a result of Johnson & Johnson’s failure to provide appropriate warnings for women.
While talcum powder is most commonly associated with use as a baby powder to help prevent diaper rash and maintain smooth skin, Johnson & Johnson has promoted their products for decades as a general body powder among adult women, who were encouraged to use talcum powder after every shower and place it in their underwear to maintain “personal freshness”.
A number of studies have indicated that talcum powder can increase the risk of ovarian cancer when applied to a woman’s genitals. At least one study even found particles of talc at the center of ovarian tumors.
Evidence presented at recent trials included company documents that suggested Johnson & Johnson was aware of the potential link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer since the 1970s. However, even as recently as 1992, some documents indicate that the company specifically targeted sales towards women who were high users of talcum powder, without ever warning them of the possible cancer risks.
If additional juries respond with similar verdicts after considering the evidence, Johnson & Johnson could face substantial liability if talcum powder ovarian cancer settlements are not reached to resolve individual claims brought by women and families throughout the U.S.