Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest healthcare products company, has been embroiled in a number of lawsuits alleging that the talc contained in its feminine hygiene products causes ovarian cancer when used over time. At issue is the main ingredient found in products like Shower to Shower which was heavily marketed to women, particularly in the 1980s.
The lawsuits allege that the talc, when frequently applied to the genital area, can eventually make its way to the woman’s ovaries. Over time, this frequent application can cause ovarian cancer. In 2016, a St. Louis jury found that not only were Johnson & Johnson talc products causing this cancer, but that the company knew about the potential and either failed to act on that knowledge or actively tried to cover it up. In fact, J&J switched its baby powder products to a corn starch, rather than talc base, in the 1970s. Feminine hygiene products were, however, left with talc.
A new development has surfaced in the issue recently; and, it has absolutely nothing to do with feminine hygiene products or ovarian cancer. The cancer in these cases is mostly associated with the lungs, and J&J just lost a case that claimed that asbestos present in the talc in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder caused a man’s mesothelioma.
New Jersey resident Stephen Lanzo and his wife were awarded a combined $37 million in compensatory damages in the decision over his claim that routine use of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder exposed him to asbestos fibers, thus causing the condition. A ruling on punitive damages is still outstanding.
For its part, the company denied all allegations in Lanzo’s trial and stated categorically that its Baby Powder product does not contain asbestos or cause cancer. It is worth noting, however, that Lanzo’s claim states that he’d used the product since being born in 1972. This would raise the question of when – or if – the Baby Powder product was moved to a corn starch base.
Only one other asbestos-related talc case has been brought against J&J and the corporation won that verdict in a Los Angeles Superior Court. Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal this latest decision.