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
Johnson & Johnson is a major manufacturer of home goods.  Making everything from medical devices, to talcum powder, to car wax, chances are you have many of their products in your home.  This giant corporation makes different kinds of talcum powder.  Johnson’s Baby Powder is a very popular powder used to prevent diaper rash (a talc free alternative is available), and it comes in several different varieties based on scent preference.
Shower to Shower
Since baby powder is often considered only for babies, Valeant Consumer Products saw a niche that J&J had not reached.  Making a body powder for adults, this company marketed their product under the name Shower to Shower.  Essentially the same thing as baby powder, this body powder is primarily talcum powder that is said to be a refreshing way to reinvigorate the body.

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
The biggest risk to using baby powder on infants is the risk of inhalation.  The particles in the powder are so fine, they easily become airborne.  Since babies are small the area being sprinkled is very close to their face, and heavy use can lead to inhaling the powder and developing talcum powder poisoning.  This can cause the lungs to become inflamed and the child may have trouble breathing for many years.
Lung Cancer
Babies are not the only ones at risk of inhaling talcum powder.  Anyone who is exposed to regular inhalation of the powder is at risk of developing lung cancer.  Those at risk are primarily the ones who are exposed to the powder in their place of employment.  Using the powder for personal hygiene subjects a person to such low quantities that there is a very little, if any, risk of developing lung cancer.
Endometrial Cancer
Women who use talcum powder in a perineal use risk developing two types of cancer.  There is a link between the use of the powder and developing endometrial cancer.  This type of cancer forms on the walls of the uterus, and is often found in post-menopausal women.
Ovarian Cancer
Using talcum regularly can cause some of the particles to work their way inside the vagina and into the ovaries.  Once there they become lodged causing inflammation and irritation.  This is an environment that is perfect for cancer to grow and spread.

There are multiple different kinds of ovarian cancer depending on where in the ovaries the cancer develops. In the case of talcum powder leading to ovarian cancer, it generally leads to epithelial ovarian cancer.The causes of ovarian cancer are varied; however, it is known that about 10% of the new cases each year are inherited. Some women carry a mutated gene that is predisposed to leading to cancer later in life. The other 90% of cases are from outside factors, including the use of talcum powder.

Every year, in the United States alone, nearly 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  While not as common as other cancers, such as breast cancer that affects over 230,000 new patients each year, ovarian cancer is still a big killer among women.  In fact, about 14,000 women each year succumb to the disease. Ovarian cancer accounts for over 70% of the diagnoses, and often begins in the fallopian tubes, or the peritoneum of the ovaries.

While many cancers can be detected with a simple blood test, or imaging, ovarian cancer is not that simple. Blood tests and imaging can be inconclusive, and can sometimes lead to a false diagnosis. Instead, doctors must rely on the symptoms, which are often not clear themselves. The patient may feel fatigued, bloated, leg swelling, changes in bowel and bladder movements, abdominal pain, and some others. Often it takes trips to several different doctors to conclude the cause is indeed ovarian cancer.

Women who have used talcum powder in perineal manner have up to a 33% increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. The powder can make its way into the vagina, travel through the fallopian tubes, and become lodged on the ovaries. The affected area will become inflamed and irritated, creating a prime location for the development and spread of cancer cells. Prolonged and habitual use of talcum powder (also called baby powder or body powder) only increases this risk.

Surviving ovarian cancer is greatly dependent on how early the cancer is caught.  If the cancer is caught in stage 1, the chances of survival are over 90%.  However, if the cancer progresses to stage 4 the survival rates are reduced to less than 20%.  There are ways to treat the cancer, such as through a hysterectomy or with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.  However, there is no treatment that will cure the patient 100%.

A simple warning label on the containers of talcum powder that address the risks of extended daily use may not deter everyone from using the product.  However, there are over 10,000 preventable cases of ovarian cancer each year.  That means nearly half of the cases, and subsequently half of the deaths, could be prevented every year with just a label that tells people what could happen.

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

A biopsy of cancerous ovaries was performed to determine the cause.  When particulates were found they were originally suspected to be asbestos; however further study showed they were actually talcum powder.
A study conducted in San Francisco looked at women with ovarian cancer, and cross compared them with the personal habits of those women.  The study looked at talcum powder use, alcohol, tobacco, and other factors.  The conclusion was that over 50% of the women with ovarian cancer were habitual users of talcum powder.
A research group looked at 235 women on Boston who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  It was found that 49% of the group were habitual users of talcum powder.  The study also determined that the length of use increased the risk with those using for more than 10 years, and those sprinkling the powder directly to the genital region, were at the highest risk.
Johnson & Johnson admits that frequent genital dusting increases the risk of ovarian cancer by as much as three-fold.
A petition was sent to the FDA to encourage them to require a warning label on talcum powder.  The petition cited previous research that supplied proof of a link between habitual use and ovarian cancer.  The petition was denied.
Senator Edward Kennedy requests that the FDA require a cancer warning on talcum powder labels.  The request was ignored.
A study of nearly 12,000 women showed that there is a significant risk of prolonged use of talcum powder and developing ovarian cancer.  The study showed that those who use the powder are at a 33% higher risk.
Another petition was developed and sent to the FDA citing 11 recent research studies that show there is a link between habitual talcum powder use, and developing ovarian cancer.  To date that petition has basically been ignored by the FDA.


What is Talcum Powder?
Talcum powder is a relatively inert mineral that is naturally found in clumped form known as talc. This mineral, when crushed, is known as talcum powder and often marketed under the names baby powder or body powder. Talc is made up mainly of the elements magnesium, silicon, and oxygen and has been utilized for centuries.
What are the Uses of Talcum Powder?
Talcum powder is primarily used by the consumer as a body powder. Many mothers have sprinkled it on their babies in order to prevent diaper rash, and they in turn have used it on themselves by applying it directly to the perineum, or applying it to undergarments, tampons, pads, and sanitary napkins. There are, however, many more uses of the product from manufacturing cosmetics (such as lipstick and eyeliner) to lining latex gloves to ease application.
Who is at Risk of Developing Ovarian Cancer?
Most uses of talcum powder are safe. However, women who have applied the powder directly to their perineum or genital region are most susceptible to the powder causing ovarian cancer. While one use will most likely not cause any problems, habitual use will. Millions of women use the powder for personal hygiene on a daily basis for years on end, putting them at a higher risk.
How Does Talcum Powder Lead to Ovarian Cancer?
The particulates that make up the powder are very fine. They can work their way into the vagina, travel through the fallopian tubes, and become lodged in the ovaries. Here they will become inflamed and irritated, creating an environment that is prime for cancer cells to grow and flourish.
How Do I Know if I have Ovarian Cancer?
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are hard to detect because they are often faint, and mimic other less serious conditions. However, when a patient feels fatigued, bloated, notices swelling of the legs, has abdominal pain, sees changes in bowel and bladder movements, she may be noticing the signs of ovarian cancer. It often takes multiple opinions to be conclusively diagnosed.
What Should I do if I Use Talcum Powder?
If you are using talcum powder for personal hygiene, it is best to find an alternative. While you may not develop ovarian cancer from the use, some studies put the increased risk as high as 33%. The longer you use the powder, the greater that risk becomes.
Who Should I Contact if I Have Ovarian Cancer?
If you have ovarian cancer, and you have been a habitual user of talcum powder for personal hygiene, contact the Arentz Law Group right away by filling out the contact form on this page, or by calling 1-800-305-6000. Scheduling your free case evaluation is easy, and the personal injury lawyers at Arentz can accurately determine if you are entitled to compensation.

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.

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