With the largest verdict yet in a talc ovarian cancer case, $417 million having just been awarded to California plaintiff Eva Echeverria, some hearing the news for the first time may be asking if Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe. The answer is, it depends on how you use it.
The health issue being discussed in the recent court cases is talc allegedly increasing women’s risk of ovarian cancer. This only becomes an issue when the powder is used for feminine hygiene; however Johnson and Johnson refuses to warn women of the risk in using its powder this way. By six juries in three states, Johnson and Johnson has been found guilty of failure to warn consumers of this risk.
According to Law360 in this most recent trial in Los Angeles, Echeverria’s attorneys showed jurors how some industries such as the condom industry stopped using talc because of health concerns as far back as the mid-90s.
Others began warning of the ovarian cancer risk. More than 10 years ago, the mining company that supplies Johnson and Johnson’s talc added a warning. When it is delivered to Johnson and Johnson, industrial talc has a warning that reads, “perineal [genital] use of talc-based body powder is possibly carcinogenic to humans.” However Johnson and Johnson continued to choose to not pass along this warning to the consumers who would be at risk.
It isn’t only the talc supplier who’s warning. Prior to this trial new evidence came to light that some companies selling talc products are also warning. According to Litigation Daily Beasley Allen principal Ted Meadows received an email from a client showing that one of Johnson and Johnson’s competitors had a warning on its label, and research in Los Angeles found talc products being sold at both Walmart and Dollar Tree with warnings on their labels.
“That was very much news to us,” Meadows told Litigation Daily. “The way it played out in trial, I think it was news to Johnson & Johnson.”
Dollar Tree product Angel of Mine Baby Powder on its label warns consumers, “This product contains talcum powder and is intended for external use only. Frequent application of talcum powder in the female genital area may increase the risk of ovarian cancer.”
“This verdict is just the latest example of a jury hearing and carefully considering all the evidence documenting J&J’s knowledge of the dangers of genital talc use, and efforts to sow confusion among the medical community and other groups. It’s important to note that in six of seven cases tried to verdict, the jury has heard the evidence and has ruled in favor of these women and their families. We’re confident that, regardless of venue, when a jury hears and sees all of the evidence, that trend and those judgments will continue,” said Meadows.
“We’re seeing other companies do the right thing and begin putting warnings regarding the genital use of talc on their private-label talcum powder products. We think J&J should warn consumers just like the other responsible companies, and would hope that the collective weight of more than $700 million in verdicts will prompt that acknowledgement on the part of the company,” he said.