Large talcum powder suppliers and distributors associated with popular brands such as Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, Gold Bond, and Shower to Shower have been sued in thousands of cases nationwide. The cases allege the companies hid that their products contain excessive levels of dangerous chemicals shown to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm. The cases allege that brands trusted by millions of consumers have caused a health crisis that has gone unchecked for years.
The reproductive toxins and carcinogenic chemicals at issue include asbestos, arsenic (inorganic oxides); Chromium (hexavalent compounds); and lead compounds. Plaintiffs allege that scientific evidence links the use of talcum powder to ovarian cancer and even mesothelioma. Plaintiffs assert that evidence linking the products to these cancers was ignored by the industry that failed to warn consumers of the dangers associated with use of the products that were marketed as safe for daily use and gentle enough to be used on babies.
In May of 2020, the New York Times reported that Johnson & Johnson would be discontinuing North American sales of its talc-based baby powder, a product that once defined the company’s wholesome image and that it has defended for decades even as it faced thousands of lawsuits filed by patients who say it caused cancer.
The decision to halt sales of the product is a huge concession for Johnson & Johnson, which has for more than a century promoted the powder as pure and gentle enough for babies. Even as it announced the withdrawal of its baby powder, the company said that it “will continue to vigorously defend the product” in court. But Johnson & Johnson acknowledged that demand for the talc-based version had slumped as consumer habits changed and concerns about the product spread.
For decades, baby powder’s main ingredient was talc, a mineral known for its softness. Sold in an iconic white bottle, its fragrance is said to be one of the most recognizable in the world. It was only in 1980, after consumer advocates raised concerns that talc contained traces of asbestos, a known carcinogen, that the company developed a cornstarch alternative.
Early lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson claimed the talc itself caused ovarian cancer, though the scientific evidence on that was never conclusive. Plaintiffs’ lawyers later shifted their focus, arguing that traces of asbestos — an indisputable and much-feared carcinogen — were present in talc and capable of causing cancer even in microscopic amounts.
The New York Times article quoted Krystal Kim, a Philadelphia woman who has survived two bouts of ovarian cancer that she blames on her lifelong use of the powder. Ms. Kim was one of a group of women who won a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in 2018. She said the decision to remove the product was a victory, “It means no more little girls are going to go through what we went through,” said Ms. Kim, who started using baby powder when she was 10 years old. “This stops now. That monster is off the shelves.”
If you think that you or someone you know has been harmed due to the use of talcum powder, contact the personal injury attorneys at Lacy Katzen LLP for a free case evaluation.