Talcum Powder

Baby powder, also known as talcum powder, has been linked to the increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. If you, or a loved one, have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder in the perineal region, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact an attorney from the Arentz Law Group P.C. by filling out the contact form on this page, or by calling 1-800-305-6000 to schedule your free initial consultation.

Uses of Talcum Powder

Many people will hear talcum powder, but not realize that is actually a very common product. In fact, the most common form is found in Johnson’s Baby Powder (manufactured by the company Johnson & Johnson). Baby powder has been used for decades as a way of preventing diaper rash. As the powder is applied to the area that is underneath the baby’s diaper, it has an astringent effect (meaning it dries and tightens the skin). This reduces friction, and allows the baby to move and wiggle without irritating the skin.

Since the powder does such a good job helping to prevent diaper rash, many women have also taken to using the powder around their genital region. Baby powder, however, has a fragrance added to it, so often the powder of choice is Shower to Shower Body Powder. Essentially the same thing, without the baby fragrance added, this powder is applied to the perineal region, or to undergarments, tampons, feminine napkins, and similar products. Some women have used the product daily for years.

While using talcum powder for the reduction of moisture is the most common, there are other uses as well. Many people notice that some latex gloves leave a dust on their hands after removal. This dust is talcum powder; used to make the gloves slide on easier. The powder can be used to reduce the smell of mold, has been used in cosmetics such as eye-shadow and lipstick, and helps to remove excess oils from products that are handled frequently.

Talcum Powder Brand Names

Most people have used talcum powder during their lives.  As children they were probably sprinkled with it in order to help reduce chafing and stave off diaper rash.  This powder, commonly called baby powder, is made up of finely crushed particles of the mineral talc.  It is widely used, and is marketed primarily under two brand names.

Johnson’s Baby Powder
Shower to Shower

History of Talcum Powder

Talc forms naturally around the world.  In fact each continent, with the exception of Antarctica, hosts at least one talc mine.  The result is that millions of tons of talc are extracted every year, and incorporated into products such as cosmetics, art supplies, technology, medical supplies, and more.  These uses are the result of years and years of research.

Discovery of the mineral is credited to geologists from the 16th century, but it is widely believed that for many thousands of years the mineral has been put to use as a medium for paints, and for helping to glaze pottery.  Since it’s “discovery” it has become increasingly popular.

As new uses have been discovered, the mineral has stayed essentially the same.  It is mined, crushed, and incorporated into rubbers, papers, and other products.  As the 20th century rolled around, manufacturing picked up pace.  This mineral saw an increase in demand as makeup became more popular.  Rubber tires became standard on vehicles and talc was needed to help make the rubber.  By the middle of the century hundreds of products were used with talc, and in its raw form it contained trace amounts of asbestos.

Asbestos is a human carcinogen.  Prolonged exposure leads to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.  By keeping it in a common everyday product, the chances of contracting one of these diseases are increased dramatically.  Fortunately many decades ago asbestos dangers became widely known and the refining process of talc involved removing the asbestos fibers.

In the early 1970s the first research started showing up that talcum powder was found in the ovaries.  After a woman would have her ovaries removed (because of ovarian cancer) the organs would be studied.  Throughout the past 4 decades numerous studies have found that cancerous ovaries contained talcum particles.

Talcum Powder Lawsuits

The studies have been around for years, however, it was not until 2013 when Johnson & Johnson was put on the stand to defend their product.

Deane Berg used Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder for 30 years. She found the astringent qualities of the powder to help reduce her discomfort in the genital region. However, due to the prolonged use of the product, she developed ovarian cancer. She then sued Johnson & Johnson claiming that they failed to warn her of the dangerous aspects of the prolonged perineal use of their product.

The result was that the judge and jury backed the plaintiff in saying that the manufacturer was indeed negligent in warning consumers about the dangers of using the product. Since the ruling in late 2013, many more women have come forward saying that using baby powder has caused their ovarian cancer. The Berg case set the precedent that shows J&J knew the risks, but did not care enough to warn their customers.

Petition for a Warning Label

The risks of using talcum powder around the genital region have been known for several decades.  This led to a citizen petition urging the FDA to mandate a warning label on the product.  This warning label is simple, effective, and easy for the manufacturers to implement.  The FDA denied the request allowing the producers of talcum powder to continue selling the products without warning the public about the risks of using talcum powder for personal hygiene.

Over the course of the next decade and a half, more evidence was gathered that linked talcum powder to ovarian cancer.  In fact, even Johnson & Johnson acknowledged that there was a risk involved with daily use of their product.  Yet no action was taken to help prevent undue cancer diagnoses.

By the year 2008 many more studies had been completed reaffirming the link between talcum powder use in the genital region and the subsequent development of ovarian cancer.

FDA Response to Talcum Powder Risks

In response to these lawsuits, the FDA has had meetings and hearings regarding the safety of ongoing talcum powder use.  Those authorized to speak for the organization denied that talcum powder was a carcinogen, and for the past 20 years have ignored requests from various groups to include a warning on the label.  The FDA sides with the corporations saying that the risk is too small, and they are “not considering to ban, restrict, or require a warning statement on the label of talc containing products.”

Talcum Powder Manufacturing

The mineral talc is made up of mainly magnesium silicate.  This naturally occurring mineral is found all over the world, and it is mined in many countries to be used in both manufacturing and to be made into talcum powder.  However, the process isn’t as simple as just pulling the mineral out of the ground.

Since talc is naturally occurring, there are many ways that it can be contaminated during the mining and refining process.  Taking care to pull it out of the ground properly many of this contamination can be avoided.  However, minerals are rarely 100% pure when they come out the ground, talc is the same way.

In its raw form talc often contains traces of asbestos.  This dangerous mineral has been known to cause many different health problems, including lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.  Asbestos has been known as a human carcinogen for many years, and since the 1970’s the refining process has removed the asbestos from the talc before it is allowed for human use.

For the mineral to be turned into talcum powder, the process is fairly simple.  Taken as a rock or aggregate, the mineral is crushed into a fine powder.  The contaminants such as asbestos are removed, and the powder is basically ready for use.  However, it should be used with caution.

Problems with Talcum Powder

Talcum Powder Poisoning
Lung Cancer
Endometrial Cancer
Ovarian Cancer

The Studies

As far back as 1973, studies were being conducted on the causes of ovarian cancer. One such study was actually looking at the ovaries in order to determine the root cause of the cancer. While the suspected contaminant was asbestos, a biopsy of the infected ovary actually revealed that the particulate in question was talc, or talcum powder.

14 years later, Whittemore et. al. took a look at women in the San Francisco Bay Area that had epithelial ovarian cancer. They were looking at how exposure to talcum powder, tobacco, alcohol, and coffee had an effect on the women who had cancer. What they found was that over 50% of the women who had cancer had habitually used talcum powder on the perineum. The conclusion of the study was that, “exposures to talc… may play an etiologic role in epithelial ovarian cancer.”

In 1992 another study was conducted at a Boston hospital. Interviews were conducted with 235 women that had ovarian cancer regarding their use of talc in genital hygiene. Of those interviewed, 49% had reported exposure to talcum powder. The risks were higher for those who applied the talc directly as a body powder (as opposed to lining undergarments and the like), and those who used it on a daily basis for 10 or more years. The conclusion was that, “a lifetime pattern of perineal talc use may increase the risk for epithelial ovarian cancer.”

11 years later, in 2003, the results of a study that looked at nearly 12,000 women were published. This study looked at 16 observational studies to determine the risk of ovarian cancer associated with perineal talc use. The results were that women who used talcum powder on their perineum were at a 33% increased risk of ovarian cancer than those who did not use talcum powder.

For the past 4 decades studies have been performed on whether or not using talcum powder can lead to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. These four studies are just a few of those that conclude there is a relationship between talcum powder use, and ovarian cancer.

Research Timeline

1973
1987
1992
1992
1994
1997
2003
2008

FAQ

What is Talcum Powder?
What are the Uses of Talcum Powder?
Who is at Risk of Developing Ovarian Cancer?
How Does Talcum Powder Lead to Ovarian Cancer?
How Do I Know if I have Ovarian Cancer?
What Should I do if I Use Talcum Powder?
Who Should I Contact if I Have Ovarian Cancer?

Contact Arentz Law

If you, or a loved one, have developed ovarian cancer after using talcum powder, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a highly trained personal injury lawyer from the Arentz Law Group P.C. immediately to schedule your free initial consultation. Just call 1-800-305-6000 or fill out the contact form on this page.

Attorneys from Arentz Law can work with clients in all 50 states.

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