Pharmaceutical giant, Johnson & Johnson have been ordered to pay $4.7bn (£3.6bn) in damages to 22 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using their talc.
Johnson & Johnson was founded in 1886 in the USA. They operate in over 60 countries, and sell products in over 175. Whilst they have many brands (including Tylenol, Neutrogena, Clean & Clear and more), the lawsuit specifically involves their talc products.
Could baby powder be causing cancer?
This is not the first time the company has come under fire for the safety of their talcum powder products. In February 2016, the company was ordered to pay $72 million in damages to the family of Jacqueline Fox. Jacqueline died in 2015 from ovarian cancer, aged just 62. She had been using baby powder every day since she was a teenager. This verdict was thrown out in 2017.
However, in March 2017, 1,000 women sued J&J for covering up the possible cancer risk from the Baby Powder product. In the same year, the company was also ordered to pay $347 million in punitive damages to a woman who had developed ovarian cancer.
The pharmaceutical giant is battling more than 9,000 legal cases involving their baby powder. The majority of these cases claim that the talc has caused ovarian cancer, but a smaller number also claim it has caused mesothelioma.
J&J have been unable to indisputably disprove the link between talcum powder, asbestos, and cancer. This is because the main ingredient in baby powder and other talc products is talc, or talcum. This is a mineral that is found in the ground and is mined. Unfortunately, many mines that collect talc also contain asbestos. Asbestos is an extremely dangerous, cancer-causing mineral. The concern is that the talc used by Johnson & Johnson may have been contaminated with asbestos. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies talc used on the genitals as “possibly carcinogenic.” A carcinogen is a substance capable of causing cancer.
Huge amount of compensation
The 22 women who brought the latest case to court say that J&J knew that their products were contaminated with asbestos since at least the 1970s and failed to warn consumers. Their lawyer clearly suggests that the baby powder currently being sold in stores could still be contaminated with asbestos. He states, “if J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning.”
On July 12th, a judge in Missouri, USA, ruled in favour of the 22 women following a six week trial. They were awarded $550m in compensation and $4.14bn in damages. This is the largest payout Johnson & Johnson has ever faced. Sadly, six of the women had already passed away from ovarian cancer.
In a statement, the company said they were “deeply disappointed” in the verdict, which they plan to appeal. The company claims that numerous studies had previously found its talc-based products to be safe and asbestos-free. However, the prosecuting lawyer told the court that the studies had used flawed testing methods.
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