A Missouri jury awarded $72 million to the family of a 62-year-old Alabama woman who died from ovarian cancer that she claimed was caused by her daily use of the iconic talcum powder. The deceased’s son stepped in as plaintiff when his mother died two years after her ovarian cancer diagnosis. J&J continue to face another 1,000 lawsuits filed in Missouri state court as well as 200 additional cases filed in New Jersey.
The jury awarded the plaintiff $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages in this wrongful death claim. Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the world’s largest health care product manufacturer, is expected to appeal the verdict. The New Jersey-based company had already been confronted by health and consumer groups with concerns over potentially toxic ingredients in products, such as Johnson’s No More Tears baby shampoo, ABC News reports.
In May 2009, a coalition of groups called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics started pressuring J&J to remove suspect ingredients from its personal care products. After 3 years of petitions, negative publicity, and threat of a boycott, in 2012, J&J agreed to eliminate 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, both recognized probable human carcinogens, from all of its products, by 2015.
During the trial, the plaintiffs supplied evidence including a September 1997 internal memo from a J&J medical consultant that suggested “anybody who denies (the) risks” between “hygienic” talc use and ovarian cancer will be publicly perceived in the same light as those who denied a link between cigarette smoke and cancer: “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
Talc is mined from the soil and composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Talc is commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products such as talcum powder, to absorb moisture, prevent caking, and improve the feel of the product.