Talc powder, frequently marketed as baby powder, has been a staple of American households for decades. People use it in diapers to prevent diaper rash. Adult and adolescent women may use it to reduce odor and moisture around the genitals.
However, recent anecdotes and medical cases are calling this practice into question. Concerns about talc powder contaminated with asbestos and inexplicable cancers in otherwise healthy individuals have led to hundreds of lawsuits against talcum powder companies. Recently, a case in Missouri went to court, and the jury found in favor of the 22 plaintiffs.
St. Louis jury awards millions of dollars to each victim
A group of 22 women diagnosed with cancer filed a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. The lawsuit claims that the talcum powder caused ovarian cancer because of contamination by asbestos. After carefully considering testimony and medical documentation, the jury sided with the female victims.
Each victim will receive roughly $25 million from the $550 million in damages awarded in the trial. Additionally, the jury found that Johnson & Johnson was responsible and ordered them to pay an additional $3.15 billion in punitive damages. Overall, the court case resulted in a judgment of roughly $4.7 billion against the massive bath and beauty company. Johnson & Johnson continues to deny the potential for contamination with their talc powder and insists that it is safe for use.
Continuing to deny responsibility likely contributed to punitive damages
Talc deposits within the Earth often exist in close proximity to asbestos. In fact, Johnson & Johnson has released records of internal documents showing that executives worried about contamination and that scientists claimed mining sites had asbestos contamination. Despite these internal communications, Johnson & Johnson has insisted for decades that its product is safe.
They have not increased testing or added any warning label to their product. The lack of action on the part of the company is likely one of the reasons why the plaintiffs in this case won such a big award. If Johnson & Johnson had simply added a disclaimer about the potential for contamination or the risk of the body absorbing the talc powder when applied to undergarments and the genitals, that may have absolved them of some responsibility.
Their fierce insistence that their product is completely safe, even for use on babies, is one of many factors that contributed to this court win. After all, the company did not act in the best interests of its consumers, but rather its own bottom line.
For those who have developed ovarian cancer or mesothelioma after years of talcum powder use, there may be a correlation. These individuals may have the opportunity to pursue a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson or other talcum companies.