$417 Million Dollar Verdict for Ovarian Cancer Casts More Doubt on Safety of Johnson & Johnson’s Talcum Powder

For more than 100 years, parents of babies have utilized Johnson’s Baby Powder to treat diaper rash. During this span, women have also used the product for personal hygiene. In fact, according to data compiled from the United States Census and the Simmons National Consumer Survey, NHCS, and calculated by Statista, 53.95 million Americans utilized Johnson’s Baby Powder in 2016.

To combat odors and moisture, women have purchased Shower to Shower Body Powder for almost 50 years. Manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, both Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Body Powder contain the potentially harmful substance talc.

Talc is a mineral comprised mostly of the elements magnesium, oxygen, and silicon. In powder form, talc absorbs moisture well and helps to decrease friction. In its pure form, some talc consists of asbestos. When inhaled, asbestos can cause certain types of cancer. However, all consumer products containing talc in the United States have been free of asbestos since the 1970s.

Although asbestos is no longer a concern in American talc products, the link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer is. According to ConsumerSafety.org, on August 21, 2017, a jury in a California state court awarded Eva Echeverria 417 million dollars in damages for her ovarian cancer complaint against Johnson & Johnson.

While in the hospital undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer, Echeverria filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson claiming her more than 60 year use of the product manufactured by the company caused the development of her cancer. According to her testimony, Echeverria began using Johnson’s Baby Powder at the age of eleven. Unaware of its potential association with cancer, she continued purchasing the popular product after receiving her cancer diagnosis in 2007.

During the trial, Johnson & Johnson maintained their talcum products are completely safe for consumer use. Because the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, doesn’t regulate cosmetics as intensely as it oversees foods and medications, Johnson & Johnson insisted they possessed no legal need to warn customers about potential issues with the product’s use. The company plans to appeal the verdict.

In addition to Echeverria’s judgement, Johnson & Johnson has been found liable for damages in four other lawsuits brought by women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower to Shower Body Powder for years. All of the other damages were awarded by separate juries in state courts in St. Louis, Missouri.

The judgements, awarded in 2016 and 2017, were for $72, $55, $70, and $110 million dollars respectively. More than 5,000 women’s talcum powder court cases remain against Johnson & Johnson. Whether the battered company will try to settle these cases or fight them in court is unknown.

Physicians and researchers have been studying the correlation between talcum powder usage and ovarian cancer for decades. A 1999 research study performed by the National Cancer Institute determined the avoidance of talc in genital hygiene may decrease the occurrence of a highly lethal type of cancer by at least 10 percent.

Since 2008, three studies conducted on more than 85,000 women, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community HealthCancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, and Cancer Prevention Research, all found a link between talc and ovarian cancer. A 2016 study completed by Schildkraut JM et al. determined 63 percent of women suffering from ovarian cancer had dusted themselves with talc.

If you’re concerned about the possible link between talc powder and ovarian cancer, other all natural options exist. They include:

  • Arrowroot starch
  • Tapioca starch
  • Baking soda
  • Oat flour

Both arrowroot starch and tapioca starch are common substitutes for flour and cornstarch in paleo kitchens. Arrowroot starch is derived from numerous tropical South American plants. Tapioca starch comes from the crushed-up pulp of the South American cassava plant.

Besides neutralizing the odors in your refrigerator, baking soda is a good alternative for talc powder. Some people even apply baking soda under their armpits every morning instead of a commercial deodorant. Oat flour is a courser option to talc powder than arrowroot starch, tapioca starch, or baking soda.

Some consumers purchase store-bought talcum powders for their pleasant smells. To liven up the aroma of homemade powder, consider adding a few drops of lavender and neroli essential oils. Before experimenting with essential oils, read the instructions and intended uses carefully. By creating a natural alternative to talcum powder, you can feel safe while remaining comfortable throughout your day.

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