Talcum Powder Link to Ovarian Cancer Prompts Concern, Lawsuits

For many women, talcum powder has been an essential part of their daily personal care routine. Now, in light of recent jury verdicts against manufacturers of talcum powder, many have begun to question whether the talcum powder they trusted is associated with ovarian cancer.

In August, a jury in California decided in favor of a Plaintiff named Eva Echeverria who claimed that her ovarian cancer had been caused by her decades-long use of talcum baby powder. Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of the powder she used, was ordered to pay $417 million in damages.

Thousands of Talc Lawsuits Currently in U.S. Courts

This is not the only case of its type; thousands of other talc lawsuits are in courts across the country. Echeverria, now 63, attested that she had used the powder since age 11. It was only after she read in the news last year about a possible link between talc and cancer that she quit using it. She said that if the powder had included a warning on the label, she would have stopped using it long ago.

There is debate among scientists about the risks associated with talc. Some researchers believe that there is a connection between talcum powder applied to the genital area and an increased risk for ovarian cancer, while others say that the findings are inconclusive.

Talc, which is a mineral, was historically mined together with asbestos. Talc is chemically similar to asbestos. Prior to 1970, asbestos was sometimes even found in talcum products.

Many women over the years have utilized talcum powder in their underwear or on sanitary napkins for its absorbent properties. As a result of this exposure, researchers believe, talc particles could enter a woman’s reproductive system and eventually reach the ovaries.

Talc, Ovarian Cancer Link Dates to early 1980s

Talcum Powder Link to Ovarian Cancer Prompts Concern, LawsuitsStudies published as far back as the early 1980s have purported to support a link between ovarian cancer and talc. Today, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer notes that the use of talcum power in the genital area is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Dr. Daniel Cramer, a professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the publisher of one of the first studies to identify a link between talc and ovarian cancer, has noted that ovarian cancer and cancers caused by asbestos exposure, such as mesothelioma, bear similarities. Dr. Cramer has long advocated for companies to include warning labels to consumers on their talcum powder containers.

Johnson & Johnson continues to defend its product, insisting that their talcum power is safe to use.


Jessica McNeil is a Litigation Paralegal at Cooney & Conway. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan and a paralegal certificate from Loyola University Chicago. You can find Jessica on Google+ and LinkedIn.

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