Reports that products from consumer health care giant Johnson & Johnson contained cancer-causing chemicals surfaced in a CBS News report in 2011. That report said that international coalition The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics had been urging the world’s largest health care company for two and a half years to remove the trace amounts of potentially cancer-causing chemicals — dioxane and a substance called quaternium-15 that releases formaldehyde — from Johnson’s Baby Shampoo without success.
At that time, The Coalition was releasing a report, “Baby’s Tub is Still Toxic” and urging consumers to boycott. Johnson & Johnson vaguely stated in response that it was reducing or gradually phasing out the chemicals from its baby products.
More recently, in September, The Nation reported again on the presence of these same two chemicals in Johnson & Johnson baby products, explaining that quaternium-15 releases formaldehyde, which is known to cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation and has been tied to leukemia; and 1,4-dioxane is a brain toxin that can cause damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys. The Nation reported that Johnson & Johnson offers products free of these two potentially carcinogenic chemicals for other countries, but they are slow to remove them for products sold in the U.S.
Johnson’s Baby Shampoo is not the company’s only product that is still on the market and generally thought of in most American families as healthy, fresh and clean, despite proven cancer risks. In 2013 in a South Dakota product liability lawsuit against J&J’s Shower to Shower talc body powder, a jury found Johnson & Johnson did not adequately warn consumers of the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. (Shower to Shower is now owned by Valient Pharmaceuticals.)
Lawyers at trial told the jury that Johnson & Johnson was aware of decades of research that has indicated a connection between the use of talcum powder for intimate feminine hygiene and elevated risk for ovarian cancer. Yet, the manufacturer has never has put a warning notice or label on its talcum powder products.
Jurors found in favor of the plaintiff, Deane Berg, who developed ovarian cancer after using the talcum powder for years. The jury found that Johnson & Johnson should have warned consumers of the risk of ovarian cancer with genital use of the powder. Despite this, Johnson & Johnson held firm that it would not add ovarian cancer warnings to its products’ labels.
This is still in fact true to date, even with numerous lawsuits being brought against the company from generations of women across the country who have been using their products with no easy access to scientific journals that, as early as 1971, were publishing the shocking findings that a majority of ovarian tumors had particles of talc embedded in them.
Since the 70s, more than 20 studies have shown a relationship between talc and ovarian cancer. Most recently, in 2013, a new study was published in a medical journal showing between a 20 and 30 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer for women who use talcum powder for intimate personal hygiene. This is not new information and it is not going away.
Johnson & Johnson and other talc manufacturers currently face more than 700 lawsuits alleging the products caused ovarian cancer. Attorneys with Beasley Allen Law Firm are currently investigating cases of ovarian cancer in women who have used talc-containing products on their genitals for personal hygiene.