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Johnson’s Baby Power verdict and causation

A California jury recently concluded that Johnson’s baby powder usage was linked to ovarian cancer. The 63-year old woman was one of many to sue Johnson & Johnson arguing long-term use of the talc-based product caused her cancer.

It has been more than a year since our last blog on the dangers of talcum powder and several more of these cases have gone to trial. Most have now gone against the company.

When was the danger known?

The first studies to link talc use to cancer date back to the 1970s. A team of scientists in Wales found talc particles in cervical and ovarian tumors. Talc is the main ingredient in talcum powder, which has been marketed to women for decades for use on their inner thighs (as a way to reduce chaffing) and perineum (for its drying and freshening properties).

Part of a routine for more than 40 years

The woman who brought the California lawsuit was too sick to testify at trial. In a videotaped deposition, she explained how she began using Johnson’s baby powder at the age 11. She even continued to use it after a 2007 diagnosis of ovarian cancer, because she did not know about the studies that had started link its use to cancer. When she heard about the talcum powder lawsuits, she finally stopped.

Her goal in bringing the lawsuit was to warn other women of the dangers. Hoping to prevent others from going through the same circumstances even as she knows she will die from the disease.

In this case and others, the company continues to point to studies that question the causal link. But even though research findings have not been consistent, numerous population studies have found a link between talc use and ovarian cancer. What they cannot conclusively prove is that there is a cause-and-effect relationship. The hypothesis of many scientists is, however, that crystals of talc travel to the ovaries and cause inflammation that plays a role in the development of ovarian cancer over the years.

The formulation of Johnson’s Baby Powder that uses cornstarch has not been linked to similar harm.

The law holds manufacturers accountable when they know or should have known that a product causes harm and they continue to sell it. If after years using a talc-based powder, you develop ovarian cancer, seek legal guidance right away.

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