Twenty-two women who say longtime use of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products contributed to their ovarian cancer diagnoses have been given their day in court with both sides giving opening arguments to the jury seated in the St. Louis Circuit Court.
The women say that the cosmetic-grade talc used in Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder was contaminated with asbestos, and that Johnson & Johnson was aware of this but failed to warn consumers. Instead, the company persuaded women to sprinkle the powder on their genitals daily for feminine hygiene, per its popular product jingle: “Shower to Shower each day helps keep odors away.”
The women argue that the talc traveled up into the vagina, through the fallopian tubes, to the ovaries causing inflammation and creating a hotbed for cancerous growth. Talc is a mineral that is mined from the earth and is often found in close proximity to asbestos, a known carcinogen. The women charge that studies dating back decades proved that the talc Johnson & Johnson used contained asbestos.
Johnson & Johnson’s attorneys denied the claims, and argued that millions of women who have used baby powder have not gotten cancer, and most who have developed ovarian cancer did not use the powder.
Of the 22 women suing Johnson & Johnson, six have died and two were too sick to come to court. Survivors are expected to share their stories with jurors as the trial progresses.
Johnson & Johnson has been grappling with claims that its talcum powder products have caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer that develops in the lining of internal organs, particularly the lungs. Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure.
In April, a New Jersey jury awarded a man $117 million who claimed his regular use of Johnson’s Baby Powder contributed to his mesothelioma. More recently, a California jury hit Johnson & Johnson with a $25.7 million verdict to another mesothelioma victim.