An expert witness in the fourth trial involving the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer told the jury that he believes Johnson & Johnson should have warned consumers of the risk of ovarian cancer as far back as 1982.
Mr. Steinberg, a cosmetics industry expert and consultant, said a 1982 study provided sufficient evidence that the talc in Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder could cause ovarian cancer, Consumer Advocacy News reports. Steinberg said the 1982 study, along with studies from the previous decade, should have made J&J aware of the cancer link.
In his testimony, Steinberg criticized the company for its attitude toward conducting studies to determine talc’s safety in the 1990s. Internal J&J documents from 1994 indicate the company did not want to pay for studies evaluating talcum powder, according to Consumer Advocacy News. Because the cosmetics industry is largely unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Steinberg believes Johnson & Johnson should be responsible for conducting talc safety studies.
Steinberg also said J&J’s talc supplier, Imerys S.A., should have insisted that J&J include a warning of the cancer risk of Imerys would stop supply talc. Imerys includes a warning on the talc it sells but this warning does not appear on consumer products Johnson & Johnson makes with the talc.
Talc is a naturally occurring mineral. When ground into a powder, it is useful for absorbing moisture and odor and helps prevent chafing. Talc is widely used in cosmetic products, but studies dating back as far as 1971 suggest that using talc as a feminine hygiene product can cause ovarian cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, when women apply talcum powder to the genital area, or sprinkle it on their underwear or sanitary napkins, minute talc particles can migrate through the vagina and fallopian tubes into the ovaries and cause inflammation. Inflammation is thought to contribute to tumor formation.
Many of the women who have filed talcum powder lawsuits say in court documents that they used talcum powder for feminine hygiene daily for decades.
In September, a trial court upheld $55 million jury award in a talcum powder lawsuit that went to trial earlier this year. In February of this year, a jury in St. Louis awarded $72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer. The woman had used Johnson & Johnson talcum powders for feminine hygiene purposes for more than 30 years. She died in October 2015 and her son took over her claim against Johnson & Johnson.
Johnson & Johnson is a defendant in more than a thousand talcum powder lawsuits involving its Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talcum powders. Plaintiffs in the cases filed in federal court have asked the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to transfer their cases to a single federal court for coordinated pretrial proceedings.