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The Trouble with Talcum

HKQ Law Personal Injury Lawyer, Nicole SantoNovember 29, 2016 - Attorney Nicole Santo - The familiar, comforting scent of baby powder – made from the planet’s softest mineral – talc. Few things seem more innocuous. Yet recently, a St. Louis jury awarded $70 million to a woman who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder for feminine hygiene for more than four decades. That verdict follows damages verdicts of $72 million and $55 million against Johnson & Johnson this year in the first two talc claims to go to trial in St. Louis.

The latest St. Louis verdict comes just a few weeks after two talcum powder lawsuits against the New Jersey based Johnson & Johnson were thrown out. A New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled the women couldn’t produce sufficient medical evidence showing Johnson’s Baby Powder caused cancer.

Clearly, the disparate cases raise more questions than they answer. The talcum powder - ovarian cancer issue is a complicated one.

What is talcum powder? It’s the refined, powdery form of talc, which comes from rock deposits found all over the planet. China is the biggest source of talc. Composed of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen, talc is usually mined from above-ground deposits. (Only a very small fraction of the world’s talc is used for baby powder. It’s used in ceramics, paint, paper, plastic and rubber, as well as chewing gum, olive oil, antiperspirants, soap and make-up.)

Talcum powder was used in the 19th century to soothe skin irritation. Consumers discovered that it helped diaper rash, leading to the introduction of Johnson’s Baby Powder in 1893. In the early 1900s, Johnson & Johnson began to market its baby powder for use by women. Advertisements in 1913 included the tagline, “Best for Baby, Best for You.” In the late 60’s, Johnson & Johnson introduced Shower to Shower Body powder. By 1985, 70% of the company’s baby powder was used by adults.

In the 1960s, a link between talc and ovarian cancer was suggested by observations that some talc powders contained asbestos. However, starting in 1973, federals laws required commercial talcum products to be asbestos-free. In 1971, British researchers found talc particles in ovarian and cervical tumors of women with cancer. A 1982 a study by Daniel Cramer, an epidemiologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, showed the first statistical link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. Subsequent epidemiological studies have found that long-term perineal talc use increases the risk of ovarian cancer. Yet other research has found no association.

In 2006, Johnson & Johnson’s supplier Imerys Talc America (then called Luzenac) added labels to its 2,000-pound bags warning: “Perineal use of the powder is a possible risk factor for ovarian cancer,” Opponents of the position that talc is carcinogen argue that if that were the case, one would expect additional lower-extremity cancers, which has not occurred.

For its part, Johnson & Johnson argues that the statistical associations between use of the powder and ovarian cancer are limited, weak, and based on unreliable data. The company claims that “Science, research, clinical evidence and decades of studies by medical experts around the world continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc.” According to a company consultant, “There hasn’t been a single scientific body that has considered talc to be a causal agent.”

“Staying informed is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your health”, says Nicole Santo, Attorney at HKQ Law. “A product may claim to be safe, when in fact, it may lead to serious health risks. Educating yourself about the products you use every day is critical to maintaining good health.”

Johnson & Johnson is currently facing 1,700 lawsuits in state and federal court accused of ignoring studies linking its baby powder and Shower-to-Shower talc products to ovarian cancer and failing to warn customers about the risk. Although Johnson & Johnson has a cornstarch-based powder, it continues to sell its talcum-based product.

If you have any questions about filing a lawsuit involving ovarian cancer and talcum powder, call HQK Law at (800) 760-1529

About HKQ Law

Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms that has had the privilege of representing more families in the courtroom than any other NEPA firm. The attorneys at HKQ Law have been honored as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms by US News and World Report, and have received the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbel. HKQ Law was recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, Jr., has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history. The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A Quinn, Jr. is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. In addition, Best Lawyers, in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, has designated HKQ a Tier 1 Best Law Firm across multiple categories in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



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