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Link between Talc and Cancer Still Not Confirmed, Despite Increasing Number of Lawsuits

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on December 19th, 2016 in

Unfortunately, Johnson & Johnson is far from being the only manufacturer who might be responsible for exposing their consumers to tremendous health risks by failing to offer accurate information regarding their products.

- By Michael Bartlett

Although research aimed at discovering the correlation between the use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer has been ongoing since the 1960s, when a connection was first suggested, studies have not yet revealed reliable evidence in this respect, as the results continue to be inconclusive. Nevertheless, the number of lawsuits filed against talc manufacturers significantly increased within the past year. Three cases were won against Johnson & Johnson due to the fact that the company failed to provide consumers with a warning regarding the high risk of ovarian cancer following the use of their talcum powder.

Lawsuits Against Talc Manufacturers Are Currently Unsettled in the US

One of the most recent cases of successful lawsuits against talc manufacturers also involves Johnson & Johnson. Deborah Giannecchini, a 62-year-old woman from Modesto, California, has been using Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder over the course of the past four decades when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. Consequently, she filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming that the frequent use of their product might have been responsible for her developing ovarian cancer. On October 27, Deborah Giannecchini was awarded over $70 million in compensatory and punitive damage by a Missouri jury following three-hour deliberations (Deborah Giannecchini v. Johnson & Johnson, et al., No. 14422-CC09012-01, Mo. 22nd Jud. Cir.).

Thus far, Johnson & Johnson has been accused of dismissing the correlation between the talc-containing products they manufacture and ovarian cancer in approximately 1,700 lawsuits in state and federal court in the US, as well as of failing to warn their consumers about the serious health risks, which might be associated with the use of talcum powder. However, the company intends to appeal the jury's verdict in the case of Deborah Giannecchini. Carol Goodrich, Johnson & Johnson's spokesman, claims that the company is "guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson's Baby Powder".

Lawsuits Against Talc Companies

Unfortunately, Johnson & Johnson is far from being the only manufacturer who might be responsible for exposing their consumers to tremendous health risks by withholding essential information regarding the company's products. On October 26, talc supplier Whittaker, Clark & Daniels has also lost the lawsuit against Philip Depoian, a California political figure who was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in May 2015. Depoian believes that his cancer occurred following his long-term use of various talc-containing products, including Old Spice, Clubman, Kings Men and Mennen Shave Talc, as well as because he has been exposed to similar products at the barbershop where his father worked. Therefore, a Los Angeles jury agreed to award Philip Depoian $18.07 million in compensatory damages (Philip John Depoian and Julie Pastor Depoian vs. American International Industries, et al., Los Angeles Superior Court, No. BC607192).

Despite deeming the talc they distribute asbestos-free, Whittaker, Clark & Daniels apparently failed to properly test it and thus exposed the consumers of the companies to which they subsequently market the talc to great health risks. In the case of Philip Depoian, the jury estimated that Whittaker, Clark & Daniels was 30% at fault, as the company is not a direct manufacturer of talc-containing products.

Facts Regarding the Correlation Between Talc and Cancer

The link between the use of talcum powder as a hygiene product and the development of ovarian cancer or other types of malignant diseases such as mesothelioma has not been confirmed yet, despite the matter having been researched for the past five decades. Even though evidence in this respect is generally inconclusive, there are a series of important facts regarding the correlation between talc and cancer, which have been revealed by various studies. For instance, a 1971 study discovered particles of talc embedded in approximately 75% of the ovarian cancer tumors researchers examined. A more recent study from 2013 published in the Cancer Prevention Research medical journal found that the risk of developing ovarian cancer is increased by up to 30% for women who frequently apply talcum powder in the genital region.

Talc is the softest known naturally occurring mineral, containing magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Due to its proximity to asbestos in the earth, some talc in its natural form may be asbestos-tainted. Asbestos is recognized as a carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Cancer, being responsible for multiple respiratory diseases and conditions such as asbestosis, pleural plaques and pleural effusion, as well as for mesothelioma, a very rare and aggressive form of cancer, which can affect the lining of the lungs, stomach, heart or testicles.

Despite strict quality control, numerous talc distributors and manufacturers fail to properly test their products for the presence of asbestos or simply neglect this issue, withholding important information from their consumers. However, due to lack of reliable evidence, The International Agency for Research and the World Health Organization have both classified talc as a possible carcinogen.

Talc litigation is undoubtedly on the rise, as more and more people are becoming aware of the serious possible health implications of its use. Between 1,200 and 2,000 lawsuits against talc distributors and manufacturers are currently pending in the US.

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