Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer
If you are like most people, when you think of baby powder, you probably think of babies. Babies are sweet and innocent, and have a unique “baby” smell after a bath, a smell that, to most of us, is infused with a touch of baby powder. Babies are delicate: we wouldn’t put Tabasco on their rice cereal or let them take a drag off a cigarette.
We definitely wouldn’t use a known carcinogen on a baby’s skin. And we don’t immediately associate babies or the products made for them with ovarian cancer.
But maybe we should.
Baby powder is made from talc. Talc is a mineral that is mined and then ground into a fine powder, known for its ability to absorb moisture and reduce friction. It’s useful stuff, especially for those of us who have had the experience of wearing wet clothing for any period of time or, of course, for those of us that have babies. But it’s not just for babies, some women use it every day to freshen up.
This may have huge consequences. Recently, thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Johnson and Johnson and other manufacturers and distributors of talc based baby powder alleging that talc has directly resulted in ovarian cancer. In fact, believe it or not, intact pieces of talc have been found embedded in the tumors.
Canada has classified talc in the same category as asbestos. You wouldn’t put asbestos on your body, and definitely not in your infant’s diaper. Canada says that putting talc on your body or in a diaper is the same thing. This isn’t just hysteria — though the different studies vary in specific results, on average, women who use talc on a weekly basis are 33% more likely to develop ovarian cancer, and women who use it daily are 41% more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
These lawsuits have been largely successful, and juries have awarded the plaintiffs huge, life changing amounts. Surely the women who have suffered would rather have their health than millions of dollars, but awards of up to $71,000,000.00 have been awarded by juries.
A big part of these huge verdicts are punitive damages. In other words, juries are saying that not only did the sellers of this poison harm these women, but they knew what they were doing, they had a viable alternative (cornstarch), and couldn’t even be bothered to place a warning label on the package.
Look at those percentages — don’t they seem awfully similar to the rates of lung cancer from smoking? We put large and obvious warning labels on cigarette packages, so people know what they are getting into when they purchase and use them. Shouldn’t women like my wife and daughter get the same opportunity to know what the consequences are? Would they — or any of the other women who suffer — make the choice to take the risk of getting ovarian cancer?
These trials are all fairly recent, and one began just last week in St. Louis, which has been the ‘go-to’ court for these lawsuits. Johnson and Johnson tried to move the case from St. Louis, stating that all the billboards and lawyers’ advertising and local news tainted the jury pool. The court disagreed, and the latest trial is underway.
More than 14,000 women will die this year from ovarian cancer. It’s a terrible disease that is accompanied by a difficult fight. Odds are good that many of the women who have suffered from it would not have used talc near their genitals if they had any idea it could result in the devastation they experienced. Few (if any) of them would put handfuls of it on their babies to help prevent diaper rash if they knew what it could cause — especially when harmless corn starch can and will do the same thing without the risk.
If you have ovarian cancer and are or were a regular talc user, you might want to contact a lawyer to see what your rights are. Obviously, no one can promise you results, and ‘getting rich’ wouldn’t be your goal over ‘getting healthy.’ However, the more these lawsuits are filed, the more likely it is that the government regulatory agencies — and the companies who are harming their customers in the name of more profits — will get the message that this product can kill and ruin lives. If nothing else, these unscrupulous companies should have to pay for your medical bills, not you.