Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Lawsuits: An Update

In May 2020, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would no longer be selling its talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada. The company would still have its cornstarch-based product on U.S. shelves, and it would continue to sell the talc baby powder overseas. Johnson & Johnson’s announcement follows years of complaints that its products are contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos. Over the last decade, the company has faced billions of dollars in legal verdicts. There is a docket of 16,000 lawsuits still waiting to be heard.

What is Talcum Powder?

Talc is a mineral comprised of several elements, including silicon, oxygen, and magnesium. It is mined from the earth and ground into a powder form, which is commonly known as talcum powder. Because of its ability to absorb moisture and odor, talcum powder is used in a variety of products, such as baby powder, perfumed body powder, pressed cosmetic powders (eye shadow, face powder, blush), deodorants, lotions, condoms, and diaphragms.

Asbestos Contamination

In the 1960s, Harvard University research D. Daniel Cramer uncovered a possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. He and his team observed that some talcum powders contained asbestos, which at that time was a known carcinogen.

Talcum powder and asbestos are two minerals that are similar in composition and naturally form together over time. They are mined from the same locations and in the same manner. As a result, deposits of talc can be contaminated with asbestos and asbestos-like fibers.

When asbestos enters the body, it can cause inflammation, abnormal cell growth, and cancer. It can also suppress cancer-fighting antibodies. Since the early 1970s, there have been dozens of studies linking talcum powder to ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and mesothelioma. According to the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer, frequent talcum powder use on the genital area can increase a woman’s risk of cancer 30-60%. Currently, the American Cancer Society lists talcum powder as a risk factor for ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder

Since the late 1900s, Johnson & Johnson has marketed its popular Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products as safe for everyone – even infants. Many women grew up using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products for their own personal hygiene, and to keep their babies clean and dry. 

Despite its claims of safety, Johnson & Johnson knew as early as 1971 that its talc-based powder products were tainted with asbestos. Internal company documents, released during a December 2018 court case, revealed that the company had spent decades actively hiding this evidence from federal regulators and the public.

In July 2019, the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission launched criminal investigations to determine whether Johnson & Johnson misled the public about its asbestos-contaminated talc products.

Recent Litigation

In the past decade, Johnson & Johnson has faced verdicts awarding billions of dollars in talcum powder lawsuits to victims and their families. Currently, the company faces more than 16,000 pending lawsuits. The plaintiffs allege that Johnson & Johnson knew its talc products could cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, but failed to notify federal regulators or warn consumers. Here is a look at some of the more recent litigation:

  • February 2016: $72M verdict for the family of Jacqueline Fox, who had been using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder for personal hygiene for more than 35 years. She died from ovarian cancer.
  • May 2016: $55M verdict for Gloria Ristesund, who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson baby powder for decades.
  • November 2016: $70M verdict for Deborah Giannecchini, who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder for more than 40 years.
  • May 2017: $110M verdict to Lois Slemp, who developed ovarian cancer that metastasized to her liver. She used Johnson & Johnson baby powder for more than four decades.
  • August 2017: $417M verdict for Eva Echeverria, who developed stage-four ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson baby powder every day between the 1950s and 2016.
  • April 2018: $117M verdict to Stephen Lanzo III and his wife. He developed mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson talc products between 1972 and 2003.
  • May 2018: $25M verdict to Joanne Anderson, who developed mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products on her children and when she bowled.
  • July 2018: $4.69B to 22 women and their families who claimed Johnson & Johnson talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer. Six of the women died prior to the trial. 
  • March 2019: $29.4M verdict to Teresa Leavitt, whose use of Johnson & Johnson products in the 1960s and 1970s caused her to develop mesothelioma.
  • September 2019: $37.2M verdict to Douglas Barden, David Etheridge, D’Angela McNeill-George, and Will Ronning, who developed mesothelioma after inhaling the asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s baby shower and Shower to Shower products.

As this continues to be a developing situation, Zinns Law will keep you updated on the latest information related to the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder lawsuits. If you or someone you know has developed cancer after using a Johnson & Johnson product, please contact us at (888) 882-9002 or via our online contact page. You may be entitled to compensation.