For many years there has been speculation concerning whether Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder causes ovarian cancer. Many cases have gone to court, and in July 2018, J&J was required to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women who blamed the talc-based product for causing their ovarian cancer. 2019 isn’t looking any better for J&J as they are expected to face almost three times as many trials involving their baby powder. However, there’s a bit of a spin on a few of these cases: instead of the plaintiff’s alleging that baby powder caused ovarian cancer, some plaintiffs are going after the billion-dollar company with accusations that their mesothelioma diagnosis is linked to baby powder use from decades ago. Is there merit to this claim?

Can Talcum Powder Really Cause Mesothelioma?
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What is Mesothelioma?

“Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that develops in the linings of the lungs, abdomen, heart or testes. The only known cause of malignant mesothelioma is asbestos, though there are other potential risk factors. Due to a long latency period, symptoms may take 10 – 50 years to develop after exposure,” explains Mesothelioma.com. 

What makes mesothelioma especially tragic is that it’s usually discovered in an advanced stage causing there to be few options for treatment. Medical professionals will do their best to help the patient to be comfortable, but traditional go-to’s like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy offer only minimal hope to extend life expectancy. However, each person is different so it’s critical to discuss these options, along with alternative treatments and possible outcomes, with your doctors.

What Causes Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is only caused by asbestos. Asbestos refers to six naturally occurring minerals that have been used for decades for its abilities to resist fire, insulate buildings, it’s anti-corrosion properties and more. By the 1970s, however, asbestos became a hot topic in the news for the health hazards it created.  

So what does asbestos have to do with baby powder?

Asbestos and talc are often formed in nature near each other. Talc is a silicate made up mainly of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. Asbestos is also a group of silicate minerals that share the same fibrous nature. Both are extremely soft and can be broken down into microscopic pieces.

Between the 1950s and 1970s, studies were conducted which found that baby powder samples were contaminated with asbestos. By the end of the 1970s, the demand for asbestos peaked with 25 countries producing nearly 4.8 million metric tons annually. Nonetheless, asbestos was banned in many countries because of the health risks that it caused including mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma occurs when microscopic fibers of asbestos get inhaled into the lungs. These particles settle into the lung’s lining and can’t be removed. Over many years, the fibers can cause enough irritation and damage to cause lung cells to turn cancerous which is why diagnosis can take years and even decades.

Law360 explains the basis for this most recent case against J&J: “The trial, which began on July 15, involves claims that Will Ronning, Douglas Barden, David Etheridge and D’Angela McNeill-George were exposed to asbestos in the baby powder when they were babies, which caused their terminal cancer.”

Seem far fetched? Consider these findings from a 2014 study conducted by a group of scientists in New York: 

  • “Through many applications of this particular brand of talcum powder, the deceased inhaled asbestos fibers, which then accumulated in her lungs and likely caused or contributed to her mesothelioma as well as other women with the same scenario.”
  • “Initial bulk analyses of 50 samples of this product in Laboratory A showed that all of the samples contained asbestos fibers. Eighty percent contained only anthophyllite asbestos, 8% only tremolite asbestos, 8% anthophyllite and tremolite asbestos and 4% anthophyllite, tremolite, and chrysotile asbestos.”
  • “We have traced the asbestos in the talc to the mines from which it originated, into the milled grades, into the product, and finally into the lung and lymph nodes of the users of those products, including one woman who developed mesothelioma.” 

Johnson & Johnson’s Responsibility

“We do not have any organized program to settle Johnson’s baby powder cases, nor are we planning a settlement program,” Ernie W. Knewitz, a company spokesman, said in an emailed statement in the Los Angeles Times. “Rather, we will continue to vigorously defend the safety of Johnson’s baby powder in the courtroom.”

“In 2019, there are at least 21 trials on court calendars targeting J&J over tainted talc, including more than 15 in California’s courts and one in Georgia set to start in March,” states the Los Angeles Times.

Prop 65 Cancer Warning Label

The current warning label for Johnson’s Baby Powder states: “WARNING: Keep powder away from child’s face to avoid inhalation, which can cause breathing problems. Avoid contact with the eyes. For external use only.”

J&J continues to deny the results of many studies and the claims of thousands of plaintiffs that their product creates an increased risk of cancer. In fact, there may be a potential trial in California over whether or not J&J’s Baby Powder should carry a Prop 65 warning label on its bottle to provide “a ‘clear and reasonable’ warning before knowingly and intentionally exposing anyone to a listed chemical” which may cause cancer.

Should baby powder have a warning label for cancer? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Please comment on our Facebook page or share on social media (links below) with your input.

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma after exposure to Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, please call Periscope Group today at (800) 511-3838. We want to hear your story and help in any way that we can.  

 

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Sources
“J&J Tried To Invade Atty Privilege In Talc Case, Judge Told.” Law 360. Accessed August 1, 2019. https://www.law360.com/articles/1183789/j-j-tried-to-invade-atty-privilege-in-talc-case-judge-told
“Talcum Powder as a Cause of Mesothelioma?” Mesothelioma.com. Accessed August 1, 2019. https://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/talcum-powder-as-a-cause-of-mesothelioma/
“Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder risk expands: It faces triple the cancer trials in 2019”. The Los Angeles Times. Accessed August 1, 2019. https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-johnsons-baby-powder-20181225-story.html
“Mesothelioma”. Mayo Clinic. Accessed August 1, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mesothelioma/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20375028
“What Is Asbestos?”. Asbestos.com. Accessed August 1, 2019. https://www.asbestos.com/asbestos/
“J&J Would Rather Fight a Cancer-Warning Lawsuit Than Let It Drop”. Bloomberg. Accessed August 1, 2019. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-27/j-j-would-rather-fight-a-cancer-warning-lawsuit-than-let-it-drop

“Asbestos in commercial cosmetic talcum powder as a cause of mesothelioma in women”. NCBI. Accessed August 1, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4164883/