During the last couple years, the company Johnson & Johnson has been under heavy scrutiny, due to accusations that one their most popular products, talcum powder, is believed to be harmful to our health and it’s been linked to several cases of cancer, saying it was the cause of it.
The company has been involved in controversy after controversy having to pay millions to alleged victims of these claims due to different juries’ decisions.
What is talcum powder?
Talc is a mineral extracted from deposits in various parts of the world. Talc is the softest of all minerals and is converted into white powder by crushing. It is widely used in cosmetics and other beauty products to absorb moisture since at least 1894 when Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder came out on the market.
It had a boom in the 70’s making it extremely successful, placing it as the biggest company of personal care products. Especially because over 50% of the purchases were made by adult customers. It was common that women used talcum powder, also known as baby powder, as part of their daily personal hygiene. Talcum It is also used in other products such as paints and plastics.
Can talcum powder be dangerous?
For most people, it’s hard to imagine how a product that has been on the market for about 100 years is still being as successful as it is, considering all the accusations it has received over the last decades. But it’s been a divided opinion over this subject. That’s why we will now mention some of the most important and revealing information regarding this issue.
According to the personal injury lawyer, Bart Bernard, the whole concern started back in the 70’s when scientists found a relation between talcum powder and cervical problems, noticing that particles of the powder were found attached to tissues of ovarian tumors. They continue their investigation without having any solid results or proofs at first.
However, in the ’90s, while the subject was still a matter of importance, the FDA, the agency that regulates food and drugs in the United States, had a 2-day meeting with professionals about talcum powder and they couldn’t reach an agreement that proved the relationship between the product and cancer itself.
Researches were still being done by different organizations, such as Ovacome, a UK base ovarian cancer charity organization, showed the results of a study that involved over 11,000 women. They showed that the risk of getting ovarian cancer from talcum powder increased by 30%, the same type of study was performed in the United States among 18,000 women showing very similar results. Although the problem seemed to be based solely on genital use, not general use of the powder.
In 2011, an alleged victim who used Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based feminine hygiene products for about 4 decades was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After this, she had to undergo a hysterectomy, which is the removal of the uterus, as well as other operations. After performing the procedure, doctors found talcum in her ovarian tissues.
During one of the trials, however, the victim’s lawyers introduced as evidence an internal memo from 1997, in which a company medical consultant said that “anyone who denies the risks” between talc use and ovarian cancer would be publicly perceived as denying the link between tobacco and cancer and denying the obvious. This statement by itself is quite shocking and disturbing because we all know the severe problems smoking has on people’s health. So, it gives everyone a different perspective.
To this day, more than 4,50 claims have been submitted by victims to courts asking for damage compensation by the company, a lot of them being successful giving the victims up to 70 million USD, in some cases.
Regardless, it seems like there is still not an official statement. Several agencies explain that the causes of this disease are still 100% unknown, but they are probably a combination of many genetic and environmental factors, not just one, such as using talcum powder.
Besides the obvious, assuming the claims are correct, what victims of this terrible condition want is that the company acknowledges and accepts the risks of the product. They demand that Johnson & Johnson place proper tags or labels on their products, alerting people of potential health problems if the product is used.
They use as example other companies who also have products that contain talcum powder but have a sense of responsibility telling people about the possibility and increased risk of ovarian cancer.
It is a very difficult issue when it comes to situations like this, considering the amount of money, connections, and reputation that is involved specially coming from a big company like Johnson & Johnson. The only thing we can do so far is to pay attention to each label on the products we buy and if possible and opt for socially responsible companies.