Scientists have identified a disturbing link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder and other talcum-based products, which have been promoted for feminine hygiene uses in the U.S. and across the world for decades. A study published in the medical journal Cancer Prevention Research revealed a 24 percent increased risk of ovarian tumors among women who relied on talcum-based products for personal hygiene.
As a result, Johnson & Johnson was hit with a putative class action in California federal court alleging that its classic baby powder products significantly increase the risk of ovarian cancer, which the company fails to disclose on its labels.
Plaintiff Mona Estrada claims she expected Johnson’s Baby Powder, made of scented talc, to be safe when she bought it regularly since 1950. But studies have shown talcum powder increases risk of ovarian cancer 33 percent for women who use it on their genitals. The only warnings on the label tell consumers to keep the powder away from their eyes, avoid inhalation and to use externally, according to the suit.
“As a result of the defendants’ misrepresentations and omissions,” the complaint said, “plaintiff and the proposed class have purchased a product which is potentially lethal.”
Estrada says she would not have purchased the powder if she’d known about the risk, but she was not claiming any personal injury.
The suit cites a jury verdict last year in the so-called first lawsuit to claim that asbestos-free talcum powder can cause ovarian cancer. The jury in that case found J&J was liable for negligence, but not for failure to warn. Plaintiff Deane Berg, who used the powder on her genital area from 1975 to 2007 and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, was not awarded any compensatory or punitive damages
In her suit, Estrada claims she has bought J&J’s powder since 1950 and believed it was safe to use on any external part of her body. The company even encouraged women to use the product daily, according to the suit.
“Although the label has changed over time, the message is the same: that the product is safe for use on women as well as babies,” the complaint said.
But J&J has known since at least 1982 of studies showing that women who used talcum powder on their genital area had a higher risk of ovarian cancer, according to the complaint. The author of a 1982 study was contacted by a J&J doctor, who was told that the company should add a warning label to the bottle, the suit said.
The American Cancer Society allegedly said that a 2008 study, linking higher usage of talcum powder to increased risk of cancer, showed the powder “probably” increased the risk for cancer. The ACS compared talcum powder to asbestos, postmenopausal hormone therapy and radiation, according to the complaint.
The suit claims J&J violated the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law, negligently misrepresented its powder and breached its implied warranty.
Representatives for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
If you or a loved one would like more information regarding the dangers of talcum powder or baby powder, please contact the attorneys at Thompson & Tredennick LLP.