Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer

Talcum powder is the primary ingredient in baby powder and a common ingredient in a number of cosmetic products. For decades, there have been concerns that talcum powder, could be linked to certain types of cancer. A number of women have successfully filed lawsuits against talcum powder manufacturers related to ovarian cancer.

History of Talcum Powder

Talcum powder, or talc, is a naturally occurring clay mineral made up of hydrated magnesium silicate. Talc is used in a number of industries, including ceramics, plastic, paints, rubber, paper, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.

One of the most common uses of talcum powder for consumers in the United States is baby powder. Baby powder is often used to prevent diaper rash in babies and is also used by adults as a body powder to absorb moisture and odors. Johnson & Johnson developed their Baby Powder in 1893, by combining Italian talc with frangrance, for use in “toilet and nursery.”

Talcum powder is one of the softest materials on earth and can be found in dozens of countries across the world. China is the largest source of talcum powder, with the majority of Johnson & Johnson baby powder coming from the Guangxi province.

FDA Review of Talcum Powder

Talcum powder, as used in baby powder, is considered a cosmetic product. Cosmetic products do not have to go through any kind of review or approval process by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to the FDA, “cosmetic products and ingredients, with the exception of color additives, do not have to undergo FDA review or approval before they go on the market. Cosmetics must be properly labeled, and they must be safe for use by consumers under labeled or customary conditions of use. Cosmetic companies have a legal responsibility for the safety and labeling of their products and ingredients, but the law does not require them to share their safety information with FDA.”

The Intended Use of Talcum Powder

There are a number of uses for cosmetic talcum powder. The most common use is as a primary ingredient of baby powder. (However, some baby powder products are made from corn starch, instead of talc powder). Baby powder is an astringent powder used to prevent diaper rash in babies.

Baby powder is also used by adults as a deodorant, to prevent chaffing, and for other cosmetic uses. An estimated 70% of sales of Johnson & Johnson baby powder is used by adults.

Talcum Powder Manufacturers

There are a number of talcum powder manufacturers. This includes raw material suppliers and the consumer brands using talcum powder. Manufacturers who produce talcum powder and the brands selling consumer talcum powder products include:

  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Lander
  • Rio Tinto Minerals/Luzenac America
  • Presperse
  • Sensient Cosmetic Technologies
  • Brenntag Specialties, Inc.
  • Maybelline
  • N.Y.C. New York
  • NARS
  • Physician's Formula
  • Dior
  • Revlon
  • Cover Girl

Baby powder or body powder are some of the most commonly used talcum powder products in the U.S. These may use a number of suppliers of talc for use in their products, including national brands and store brands of baby powder. Baby powder and body brands in the U.S. include:

  • Johnson's Baby Powder
  • CVS Brand Baby Powder
  • Rite Aid Baby Powder
  • Anti Monkey Butt Powder
  • Assured Shower & Bathe Absorbent Body Powder
  • Angel of Mine Baby Powder
  • Family Dollar Mild Baby Powder
  • Shower to Shower Morning Fresh Absorbent Baby Powder

Complications from Using Talcum Powder

There are a number of concerns related to the common use of talcum powder in infants, children, and adults. There are concerns that talcum powder and baby powder used in feminine hygiene could be linked to ovarian cancer. Other complications from using talcum powder include the possible contamination with asbestos, a known carcinogen, and lung problems when talcum powder is inhaled.

Ovarian Cancer

Many women commonly use talcum powder or baby powder for feminine hygiene. However, a number of studies have suggested prolonged use of talcum powder in feminine hygiene may be linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, use of talc in the perineal area is classified as possibly carcinogenic. Possible links to cancer through continued use of talcum powder include endometrial and ovarian cancer. Talc has been detected in women's ovaries and pelvic lymph nodes. A study in 1971 first found talcum powder “deeply embedded” in ovarian tumors of biopsied cancer patients.

At least 20 other epidemiological studies have found that prolonged perineal use of talcum powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer. By some estimates, use of perineal talc increases the risk of ovarian cancer by about 33%.

The FDA has not found the link between continued talcum powder usage and ovarian cancer to be “conclusively demonstrated.” However, juries in a number of court cases have found talcum powder product companies responsible for ovarian cancer in women, awarding damages to the victims and their families.

Asbestos Contamination

Asbestos is another naturally occurring element, often found in or near the same location as talc minerals. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, linked to cancer after exposure. Since the 1970s, there has been concern that talc may be contaminated with asbestos, exposing unsuspecting consumers to a known cancer-causing agent.

Inhalation Warnings

Baby powder was commonly used to prevent diaper rash. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against the use of talcum powder or baby powder in infants and children. Use of baby powder presents a risk of respiratory problems when the baby inhales the small particles.

One report found more than 25 cases of talcum powder aspiration with a mortality rate of 20%. However, the true rate of baby powder inhalation was highly underestimated. Even careful use of baby powder creates airborne particles that are easily inhaled by babies, leading to possible breathing trouble and lung damage.

Ovarian Cancer Deaths

According to one report, the odds of a woman in the U.S. being diagnosed with ovarian cancer are about 1 in 70. However, the odds associated with using talcum powder increase to 1 in 53. About 20,000 women each year are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which is one of the most deadly cancers affecting women. Each year, more than 14,000 women die from ovarian cancer.

Academic Review and Clinical Studies

FDA Funding Research on Ovarian Cancer Risk from Talc Use

The FDA's Office of Women's Health has funded research projects which affect women's health. A current research study is titled, “Non-clinical mechanistic studies in addressing ovarian cancer risk from talc use in cosmetics.” According to the study's abstract:

“Talc is an important industrial chemical, that is widely used in plastic apparatus and plastic surfaces, including surgical gloves, and gynecologic procedures, and women are commonly known to use products containing talc for hygiene and cosmetic purpose. Although some epidemiologic and animal studies have examined the relation between talc and ovarian cancer, talc's effects on female genital system tissues have not been adequately investigated. A study published by Keskin et al (2009), aimed to examine carcinogenic effects of long-term talc exposure on the genital system of female Sprague -Dawley rats. The preliminary results showed that in rats in which talc (100 mg in 0.5 ml saline) was given intravaginally daily for 3 months had unfavorable effects on the female genital system. However, these effects seemed to be in the form of foreign body reactions or infections without specific. This suggests the need for studies with longer exposure periods and more detailed evaluation of the early events in genital system tissue transformation. This proposed research will help to fill some of the existing data gaps, in the molecular and genetic events associated with early ovarian oncogenesis, as these are largely unknown. Specifically, the association of such oncogenesis, with respect to exposure to a cosmetic ingredient used by women (talc), is of particular interest to women's health, and our studies could prove to be useful as possible experimental models for further mechanistic studies in ovarian carcinogenesis.”

Talcum Powder Warnings and Recall Notices

The FDA is aware of questions related to the safety of talcum powder and concerns that talc contains harmful contaminants, including asbestos. According to the FDA, the agency “ monitors for potential safety problems with cosmetic products on the market and takes action when needed to protect public health. Before we can take such action against a cosmetic, we need sound scientific data to show that it is harmful under its intended use.”

“Published scientific literature going back to the 1960s has suggested a possible association between the use of powders containing talc and the incidence of ovarian cancer. However, these studies have not conclusively demonstrated such a link, or if such a link existed, what risk factors might be involved.”

Regarding possible asbestos contamination, asbestos is a known carcinogen and the FDA considers it unacceptable for talc to be contaminated with asbestos. The FDA has conducted a survey of currently marketed cosmetic-grade raw material talcum powder and common products containing talc. Using an outside laboratory, the survey found no asbestos detected in any of the products tested. However, the FDA admits that the results were limited and only four talc suppliers provided samples.

Talcum Powder Patient's Legal Rights

There are many ways that talcum powder products may be considered defective or dangerous. This could include a design defect where the product is not safe for the intended use or a manufacturing defect where the product is contaminated with a harmful product. It may involve a failure to warn defect where the manufacturer failed to properly warn the consumer about dangers involved with using the cosmetic product.

Patients who are injured by defective medical products may be able to seek damages from the manufacturing company. Damages can include medical costs, income loss, and pain and suffering. Individuals who lose a loved one because of a defect may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the medical device manufacturing company.

Current Talcum Powder Cases

There are more than 1,000 lawsuits involving injuries related to talcum powder pending in state and federal courts across the country. A number of these lawsuits are ongoing cases consolidated as class action lawsuits, including class action lawsuits filed in California, New Jersey, Missouri, and Illinois. Others individual cases have reached multimillion dollar verdicts for individuals and their families who have been injured as a result of talcum powder uses.

Talcum Powder Verdicts and Jury Awards

A woman in Birmingham, Alabama filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson products after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Jacqueline Fox had used Johnson's Baby Powder and other Johnson & Johnson products containing talcum powder for more than 30 years. A pathologist testified that the talc inflamed the woman's ovaries, developing into cancer. In February 2016, a jury awarded Fox's family $72 million in damages.

In May 2016, a jury awarded Gloria Ristesund $55 million in damages. Ristesund developed ovarian cancer after regular use of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products for almost 40 years.

In October 2016, a jury awarded Deborah Giannecchini $72 million related to her developing stage 4 ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products for almost 40 years. Johnson & Johnson is to cover about $70 million in damages and Imerys Talc America will pay about $2.5 million.

In May 2017, a jury awarded $110 million to Lois Slemp. Slemp had regularly used Johnson's Baby Powder and other Johnson & Johnson products for more than 40 years. Slemp later developed ovarian cancer, which spread to other parts of her body.

Talcum Powder Attorneys Gilman & Bedigian

If you were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder or baby powder products, you may have a legal claim for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. If a loved one died as the result of talcum powder-related cancer, you should talk to experienced medical injury attorneys about your claim. You should not have to suffer because the baby powder companies failed to warn consumers of dangers associated with their products.

At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our experience, knowledge, and dedication to fight for you to receive the compensation you and your family deserve. Our aggressive trial lawyers have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in compensation related to defective cosmetics, medical devices, and defective drug injuries. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.

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