Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was ordered to pay $55 million in a talcum powder case to a woman named Gloria Ristesund who claimed the company’s feminine hygiene products caused her to develop ovarian cancer.
After a trial that lasted three weeks, $50 million was awarded for punitive damages and $5 million for compensatory damages by a Missouri state court. This was the second trial loss in a row for J&J. There are 1,200 other lawsuits are currently underway—all claiming J&J did not warn consumers about the cancer risks of its talc-based products.
The first trial J&J loss resulted in $72 million paid out to the family of a woman who used the same products for 35 years and died from ovarian cancer. Regarding that trial in February, a J&J spokesperson said, “We sympathize with the plaintiff’s family, but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence.”
The only other trial with talc powder and ovarian cancer was in South Dakota and ended in a split verdict. The jurors found J&J to be negligent, but no damages were awarded to the victim.
According to J&J spokeswoman Carol Goodrich, “the verdict contradicted 30 years of research supporting the safety of cosmetic talc.” J&J plans to appeal the ruling and continue to defend the safety of its products.
Ristesund used J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder on her genitals for years. Now, Ristesund has ovarian cancer and needs a hysterectomy and other related surgeries.
The hope is for this jury’s decision to “end the litigation” and sway J&J to settle its remaining 1,200 cases. Scientists say it hasn’t been proven that talc powder causes cancers like ovarian and mesothelioma, yet studies have found asbestos present in the substance before.
According to the American Cancer Society, some talc in its natural form contains asbestos, which can cause cancer if inhaled. “The evidence about asbestos-free talc, which is still widely used, is less clear. For any individual woman, if there’s an increased risk, the overall increase is likely to be very small. Still, talc is widely used in many products, so it is important to determine if the increased risk is real. Research in this area continues.”
Studies on animals have proven talc can cause tumors. Other studies do not show the same results. Studies relating ovarian cancer and talc powder have mixed results.
Using talc-based body powder is “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Most of the 1,200 cases are in Missouri and New Jersey, in which J&J said “it acted properly in developing and marketing the products” across the board.