Talcum Baby Powder Class Action Lawsuits
Talcum baby powder is a common hygiene product, but it is one that has been associated with an aggressive and rare type of cancer called mesothelioma. This kind of cancer is most often caused by asbestos exposure in the workplace, but many people who used baby powder products for years have developed cancers, including mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
Research studies have found that talc products may be contaminated with asbestos, and although laws have changed to ensure modern products are asbestos-free, mesothelioma is a long-latency cancer. Some people didn’t develop symptoms for decades after using the products. Now, people are suing the companies responsible, as individuals, and grouped together in large class action lawsuits.
Talc, a Natural Mineral Used in Baby Powder
Such an innocuous-seeming product as baby powder has become synonymous with cancer and class action lawsuits because of the natural mineral that is the main ingredient. Talc is a natural mineral that is mined from the earth and is soft. It can easily be ground into a powder that is very good at reducing friction between two surfaces and absorbing moisture.
These properties made it an idea ingredient for hygiene and beauty products. Any type of makeup or hygiene product that is powdered is likely to have at least some talc in it, but talcum baby powder is almost exclusively made of talc. People apply it to the skin to absorb sweat, to keep skin dry, and to reduce friction and prevent rashes and irritation.
Asbestos in Talc
Because talc is a natural mineral, when it is mined it is likely to be mixed with other minerals. It is rarely found as a pure substance. Even a source that is mostly talc is probably contaminated with a little bit of other natural minerals. Asbestos is one of the minerals that may be found in talc deposits. Beginning in 1973, U.S. law requires that makers of talc products remove any contaminating asbestos. This does not mean, however, that all talcum powders are now asbestos-free. A recent study found traces of asbestos in popular talcum powder products.
Talcum Baby Powder and Cancer
That same study concluded that baby powder products were capable of causing mesothelioma, and likely did in some specific cases. The issue is that the particles of the powder are so fine that they are easily inhaled. Contaminating asbestos can then get into the lungs and cause pleural mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is not the only type of cancer that talcum powder has been associated with. Women often use the products in the genital area, and some have developed ovarian cancer. Studies have found that this use of baby powder does increase the risk of having ovarian cancer and that the tumors in some women contained talc particles.
Class Action Lawsuit in Missouri
There have been several individual cases brought against talcum powder manufacturers over cases of cancer, and many of these have been successful for the plaintiffs. Now, victims are getting together in larger groups to file class action lawsuits. One important lawsuit that is just beginning in St. Louis involves 22 women who are going up against manufacturing giant Johnson & Johnson.
The women all allege that regular and long-term use of the company’s baby powder products led to their cases of ovarian cancer. The case was almost shut down because 17 of the plaintiffs do not reside in Missouri. Johnson & Johnson challenged this with a motion to dismiss the case but failed.
The plaintiffs in this case may get a boost from an individual case that a man won in New Jersey against Johnson & Johnson. The man claimed that he developed mesothelioma from years of use of the company’s baby powder. His lawyers presented internal documents from Johnson & Johnson that prove the company knew their products contained asbestos. The man won his case and the jury awarded him $117 million.
Now the plaintiffs in the class action suit, and their lawyers, plan to use that information from the New Jersey case. They hope it will help prove that the baby powder they used was likely also contaminated with asbestos and that this contributed to ovarian cancer. The argument may rest on whether or not there is evidence that asbestos can cause this particular type of cancer.
Canadian Class Action Lawsuit
There are also many people in Canada who have been affected by regular use of talcum powders, and one group has just gotten the go-ahead to start a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. The suit was approved to go ahead by the Quebec Superior Court and is being called the Baby Powder Ovarian Cancer Class Action.
As with U.S. cases against Johnson & Johnson, the plaintiffs in this case are arguing that the regular use of baby powder on their genitals led to ovarian cancer. The company maintains that the product is safe, but the women want compensation for their medical expenses and pain and suffering and to have a warning label added to all talc products.
Many Victims Not Choosing Class Action
While there are new class action suits starting up in Canada and the U.S., the majority of victims of cancer from using baby powder are sticking with individual talcum baby powder lawsuits. This amounts to thousands of individual cases that Johnson & Johnson has to battle. One reason for this is that class action suits can be difficult to win. And, when an individual wins it tends to make the next case easier to win, and it also sets a standard for the compensation the victim should receive.
Often these cases end in the company settling with the victims instead of going to trial, which can be more expensive for the defendant. This point was made recently when a jury in a California court found Johnson & Johnson liable for ovarian cancer in one individual plaintiff. The jury awarded her $417 million in punitive damages, a huge amount.
Class action lawsuits have their place and could be useful in helping the victims of cancer caused by baby powder products get justice and compensation. If you believe that your cancer may have been caused by talcum powder use, speak to an asbestos lawyer or experienced products liability team that can help you decide if you have a case and what steps to take next to join a class action suit or file your own independent lawsuit.
Page Edited by Dave Foster
- Gordon, R.E., Fitzgerald, S. & Millette, J. (2014). Asbestos in Commercial Cosmetic Talcum Powder as a Cause of Mesothelioma in Women. Int. J. Occup. Environ. Health, 20(4), 318-32.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4164883/
- Terry, K.L., Karageorgi, S., Svetsov, Y.B., Merritt, M.A., Lurie, G., Thompson, P., Carney, M.E., Weber, R.P., Akushevich, L., Lo-Ciganic, W., Cushing-Haugen, K.L., Sieh, W., Moysich, K.B., Doherty, J.A., Nagle, C.M., Berchuck, A., Pearce, C.L., Pike, M., Ness, R.N., Webb, P., Rossing, M.A., Schildkraut, J., Risch, H.A. & Goodman, M.T. (2013). Genital Powder Use and Risk of Ovarian Cancer: A Pooled Analysis of 8,525 Cases and 9,859 Controls. Cancer Prevention Research, 6(8), 811-21.
Retrieved from: http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2013/06/12/1940-6207.CAPR-13-0037
- Bellon, T. (2018, April 16). New Twist in Baby Powder Lawsuits as Focus Turns to Asbestos Contamination.
Retrieved from: https://www.stltoday.com/business/local/new-twist-in-baby-powder-lawsuits-as-focus-turns-to/article_c8179577-9657-526f-a997-69edcef165f7.html
- Hsu, T. (2017, September 28). Risk on All Sides as 4,800 Women Sue Over Johnson's Baby Powder and Cancer.
Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/28/business/johnson-and-johnson-baby-talcum-powder-lawsuits.html
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