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Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $72M in Baby Powder Cancer Case

talcum powder

A Missouri jury has hit Johnson & Johnson (J&J) hard, awarding a family a $72 million judgment in a baby powder lawsuit. After hearing that Jacqueline Fox had used both J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc-based products regularly for over 35 years, the jury found J&J responsible for a woman’s death from ovarian cancer.

Fox, from Birmingham, Alabama, filed the lawsuit after being diagnosed with cancer. About two years after diagnosis, she lost her fight. Fox’s son took over the lawsuit after her October 2015 death at age 62.

Jury decides J&J liable in only four hours

Fox’s family alleged that J&J has known for decades that the talc products could cause cancer but lied to the public and regulatory agencies to protect its sales. Attorneys pointed to a J&J internal memo that indicated sales of the products were slipping as the public became more aware of the cancer link. It went on to suggest targeting the black and Hispanic communities where talcum powder was more commonly used; Ms. Fox was a black woman.

The trial lasted three weeks but the jury was finished deliberating in only four hours. It found J&J liable for fraud, negligence, and conspiracy and awarded $10 million in actual damages plus another $62 million in punitive damages.

Fox’s trial was the first to award damages against J&J over talc powder-related cancer. A federal jury in an earlier trial in October 2013 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, found that plaintiff Deane Berg’s cancer was related to her use of J&J’s products but she received no damages.

There are still more than 1,000 talc lawsuits filed against J&J in the Missouri state court and 200 more in New Jersey. Other similar cases involving cancer are being reviewed by talcum powder lawyers.

Shower to Shower is now owned by Valean Pharmaceuticals International Inc., which was not a defendant in the case.

Talcum powder and cancer link

The main ingredient in J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower is talcum powder. Talcum powder is made from talc, which is a mineral containing magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. The powder is absorbent and cuts down on friction, so it helps to prevent rashes. In addition to baby powder, talcum powder is found in cosmetics and other consumer products.

Originally, talcum powders contained asbestos, which is recognized as a carcinogen. However, no talcum products for home use have contained asbestos since the 1970s. Still, some studies indicated that even asbestos-free talcum powder may lead to cancer in those who work closely with natural talc fibers (like miners who breathe it in) and women who routinely apply talcum powder in the genital area.

Some lab studies and studies comparing groups of people have each found some indication that talc might cause ovarian cancer if the particles traveled through the body. The American Cancer Society has adopted the position of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, and holds that genital use of talc-based powers is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The American Cancer Society suggests that people concerned about the cancer risk switch to corn starch-based powders instead.

  1. Law Newz Johnson & Johnson to Pay $72 million for Cancer-Causing Powders,

  2. WebMD, $72M Awarded in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Case,

  3. American Cancer Society, Talcum Powder and Cancer,