Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Cancer FAQ
Since 2016, more than 51,000 plaintiffs have filed suit against Johnson & Johnson, claiming its popular baby powder products cause ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers. This product, made primarily of talcum powder, contains asbestos, a cancer-causing agent.
Most of the lawsuits allege that Johnson's Baby Powder caused ovarian cancer. Many of the plaintiffs are women who used the product for years, specifically in their genital area. The defendant claims their product is safe and does not cause cancer.
While the medical research is inconclusive, plaintiffs insist that the company knew about the ovarian cancer risk factors but failed to warn consumers. In this section, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder cancer claims.
- What is talcum powder?
- I've read that talc naturally contains asbestos, a known carcinogen. Is this true?
- Does talcum powder cause cancer? What does the research tell us?
- What did Johnson & Johnson know about the possible cancer risk?
- Does J&J deny the danger of talcum powder?
- How many plaintiffs have filed talcum powder cancer lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson? Have there been any verdicts?
- How much are the talcum lawsuit awards and settlements?
- How long was talcum powder sold?
- Is talcum baby powder still sold?
- How can I check if a product contains talc?
- What if I have ovarian cancer and suspect Johnson & Johnson baby powder is to blame?
What is talcum powder?
Talcum powder is a cosmetic product made from talc, the softest known mineral on earth. Talc contains magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. These are all-natural minerals. These minerals are mined from the ground and crushed into a fine powder. Manufacturers then refine it to remove impurities.
Because it's smooth and absorbs moisture, companies use talcum powder to prevent friction. This helps prevent rashes and keeps skin dry. Talcum powder is in various personal care products, including powder-based cosmetics and oral supplements.
I've read that talc naturally contains asbestos, a known carcinogen. Is this true?
Talc contains trace amounts of asbestos, which causes cancer. There are products on the market that contain talc. The FDA has suspected that talc-based products may cause cancer since the mid-1970s. Many of these products are personal care products, including:
- Cosmetics (blush, eye shadow)
- Face powders
- Foot powder/sprays
- Baby lotions and oils
- Eyebrow pencils
- Foundation makeup
Does talcum powder cause cancer? What does the research tell us?
The medical research into whether Johnson's Baby Powder (or talcum powder in general) causes ovarian cancer is inconclusive. There seems to be some evidence that, when applied directly to the genitals, condoms, or diaphragms, talcum powder can increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
There was also a recent study conducted in 2019 that found a strong correlation between talcum powder and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is one of the most deadly forms of cancer. A trial jury decided in a recent case that the plaintiff was entitled to damages. In this case, the plaintiff alleged that Johnson & Johnson's powder caused his cancer.
It is difficult to prove a definitive link between talc-based baby powder and cancer. There are scientific papers that suggest a possible link between (asbestos-free) talcum powder and cancer as far back as the 1960s, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has also found compelling correlations between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, analyzing the results of multiple studies and concluding that talc-based body powder is "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
Despite these studies, Johnson & Johnson's defense attorneys insist that they have over 40 years' worth of independent research proving that there is no connection between their product and cancer.
What did Johnson & Johnson know about the possible cancer risk?
Attorneys for the company have said that decades of research show no conclusive correlation between the company's baby powder products and ovarian cancer. However, plaintiffs' attorneys have argued that Johnson & Johnson knew of the potential risks but failed to warn the public and regulators. Nor did the company adequately investigate the claims.
Does J&J deny the danger of talcum powder?
Since 2016, when the first round of plaintiffs filed their lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson has vehemently denied liability. Their position has remained the same. As of 2023, the defendant still insists that their product does not cause cancer. There is language to this effect in the most recent settlement offers.
How many plaintiffs have filed talcum powder cancer lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson? Have there been any verdicts?
As of November 2023, more than 51,000 plaintiffs have filed talc-related cancer lawsuits. On several occasions, Johnson & Johnson (and their subsidiaries) attempted to avoid future liability by filing bankruptcy. However, the courts dismissed the most recent talcum powder lawsuit filing.
The defendant had hoped that, if the courts approved their bankruptcy, they could set aside a certain amount of money to settle all future claims. The good news for plaintiffs is that the court thwarted their plans. As of now, plaintiffs are still able to sue. The courts have consolidated some cases, while others will be tried separately or in small groups.
How much are the talcum lawsuit awards and settlements?
Since 2016, Johnson & Johnson has paid more than $570 million in judgments. They also settled one claim (filed by 22 women) for more than $2 billion.
In 2021, the defendant attempted to get a global settlement approved for $8.9 billion. They tried to file a bankruptcy and include the settlement through the bankruptcy. The courts recently rejected this bankruptcy plan. However, there is still hope that the settlement will go through.
Product liability cases can be costly for the defendant companies. Ideally, this will incentivize them to improve overall product safety. It also helps consumers get compensation for medical bills and other losses.
One common tactic defendants in product liability actions use is filing bankruptcy to avoid paying significant judgments. Unfortunately, for product liability victims, this often works.
How long was talcum powder sold?
Johnson's Baby Powder has been sold since 1894. It wasn't until the 1970s that the FDA started investigating the possibility that talcum powder products caused cancer.
In 2020, Johnson & Johnson removed their baby powder and other talcum-based products from shelves in the U.S. and Canada. The company denied that they did this due to any cancer risk. Instead, they cited dwindling sales as the reason for the recall.
Is talcum baby powder still sold?
Johnson & Johnson removed their talcum baby powder from the shelves in 2020. As of January 2023, the product is no longer available in the United States or Canada. But this doesn't mean other companies don't still sell talc-based products. Dozens of companies continue to sell products containing cosmetic talc. There is a chance that these products cause an increased risk of cancer.
It's a good idea to see your primary health care provider and ensure that you don't have ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. For now, the FDA cannot force these companies to stop selling talc-based products. However, most personal care products now contain cornstarch instead of talc.
How can I check if a product contains talc?
The best way to determine if a product contains talc is to look at the ingredients on the product label. You can also do an online search to identify products that have talc as one of the ingredients.
Some of the types of consumer products that may contain talc include:
- Dry shampoo
- Liquid foundation
- Liquid makeup
- Makeup primer
- Makeup setting spray
- Powder cosmetic products such as eyeshadow, blush, highlighter
- Face powder
- Skincare products like moisturizers and eye cream
- Diaper cream
It is important to remember that the companies selling these products are not necessarily the subject of litigation. Nor has the FDA recalled these products due to cancer-causing agents.
What if I have ovarian cancer and suspect Johnson & Johnson baby powder is to blame?
If you've received a diagnosis of ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, be sure to get proper medical attention. Compile as much information as possible concerning your illness and your use of talcum powder as possible.
Contacting a product liability attorney can help you protect your rights. You may be able to pursue compensation for your illness through a talcum powder cancer lawsuit.
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