An ovarian cancer death has been linked to Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder, and the manufacturer has been ordered by a jury to pay $72 million to the victim’s family.
Jackie Fox, a resident of Birmingham, Alabama, had long resorted to Shower to Shower absorbent body powder as well as Baby Powder produced by Johnson & Johnson for her feminine hygiene.
Fox had actually been a fan of these talc-based products for several decades, using them quite frequently, unfamiliar with the health risks she was facing.
In March 2013, the woman was told by doctors that she was suffering from ovarian cancer, and after battling the disease for more than 2 years and a half, Fox eventually succumbed to it, in October 2015.
Shortly after her diagnosis, as she gained greater awareness about the dangers of talcum powder, the cancer patient launched a civil lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, accusing the company that its Shower to Shower and Baby Powder products had been the source of her malignant tumor.
Following the woman’s death, court proceedings continued by Marvin Salter, the victim’s son, as part of a class-action lawsuit launched against Johnson & Johnson by approximately 60 plaintiffs, in the 22nd Circuit Court, from St. Louis, Missouri.
On Monday, February 22, a verdict was finally reached: believing that the allegations were indeed well-founded, the jury decided that the company based in New Brunswick, New Jersey should provide monetary compensation to Fox’s family amounting to $72 million.
A sum of $10 million is expected to be set aside as actual damages, while the remaining $62 million will be considered punitive damages, meant to emphasize how grave the offense has been and deter other companies from indulging in similar practices.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson representatives have declared that while the loss experienced by Fox’s loved ones has obviously been tremendous, the court’s decision runs counter to extensive research spanning across decades.
As company officials explain, numerous studies have shown that talc can actually be incorporated in various cosmetics and personal hygiene products without having any detrimental health effects.
Therefore, it is expected that the company will soon challenge the verdict, and file for an appeal.
Meanwhile, the scientific community is currently divided regarding the risks posed by regular use of talc-based personal care items.
Traditionally, talc has been added as an ingredient to a wide variety of toiletries because it is effective when it comes to reducing moisture and lowering the amount of perspiration secreted by the body’s sweat glands.
Talc is believed to combat irritations and rashes following waxing or shaving, given the fact that it cools the skin, while also leaving it perfectly smooth and dry.
It’s also considered effective against chafing because it minimizes friction, or as a dry shampoo working as a quick fix against greasy hair.
Talc is even incorporated in feminine hygiene products because it can purportedly lower the risk of developing yeast infections triggered by Candida albicans and other related fungi.
The problem is that this natural mineral, which includes silicon, magnesium and oxygen, tends to be found near asbestos, a substance which has been proven to trigger mesotheliomas, which are cancerous tumors affecting lung tissues.
However, for more than 4 decades, asbestos has been removed from all the personal care products which contain talc powder, so theoretically such risks have been eliminated.
And yet, some researchers suggest that even products without asbestos can pose a risk to women, increasing the likelihood of suffering from ovarian cancer as the talc contained in personal hygiene products winds up in the ovaries, triggering inflammation.
Other experts seem to indicate that no such cause and effect relationship exists, and that those who have encountered a connection have based their findings on subjective and inaccurate recollections reported by study participants.
Meanwhile, scientists affiliated with the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research of Cancer believe that opting for talcum powder in the genital area is “possibly carcinogenic”.
This means that at the moment evidence proving that exposure to this mineral can cause cancer remains limited, the perceived risk being the same as the one surrounding aloe vera, gasoline or coffee.
On the other hand, Dr. Daniel Cramer, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, is convinced that talcum powder can heighten the probability of suffering from ovarian cancer by about 30%.
Cramer has actually supported the plaintiff’s claims during the lawsuit, citing his own extensive research, and it appears his arguments were convincing enough for the jury.
Equally effective during the trial was the use of an internal memo which circulated at Johnson & Johnson in September 1997.
In the document, a healthcare consultant is warning executives that failing to admit that talcum powder is carcinogenic is similar to the attempts made by cigarette manufacturers to suppress similar findings concerning tobacco smoke.
Therefore, it appears that the company knew about the potential health risks all along, and still continued to use talcum powder in its products.
Image Source: About Lawsuits