Women across the nation are suing Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc Inc., its talc supplier, for failing to warn consumers of the possible cancerous side effects of its talcum powder products.
The lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other talcum powder manufacturers want to prove two things:
- The women who are filing lawsuits contracted ovarian cancer because of their use of talcum powder in the perineum (genital area).
- Johnson & Johnson knew talc was possibly carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and neglected to warn consumers of that possibility.
Evidence That Talc Can Cause Cancer
For the first point, lawyers have evidence dating back to 1971 showing that scientists found talc particles nested in ovarian and cervical tumor tissue. Further studies have found links between long-term talcum powder use in the genital area and ovarian cancer.
Statistics show that long-term talcum powder use increases a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer by more than 30 percent.
There are other studies that struggle to find causation of ovarian cancer by long-term talcum powder use, but no study has been able to prove definitively that talc and ovarian cancer are not linked.
What did Johnson and Johnson Know?
For the second point, lawyers have access to Johnson & Johnson documents from 1986-2004 that show the company trying to minimize its talcum powder products’ links to cancer. One memo from 1992 specifically recognizes the “negative publicity from the health community on talc (inhalation, dust, negative doctor endorsement, cancer linkage).”
Alfred Wehner was hired as an outside toxicology consultant for Johnson & Johnson in the 1990s. Although he personally agreed with Johnson & Johnson in their belief that talc was not significantly dangerous, he wrote to the manager of preclinical toxicology in 1997, “Anybody who denies this [the link between talc and ovarian cancer] risks that the talc industry will be perceived by the public like it perceives the cigarette industry: denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”