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Toxic Talc Trial Begins in California

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Los Angeles, CAAfter plaintiff’s expert testified that talc is indeed toxic, defendant Johnson & Johnson is on the offensive in the talcum powder bellwether trial that began this week in California state court.

Expert witness Laura Plunkett, a toxicologist and pharmacologist and former consultant to the pharmaceutical industry testified on the link between talcum powder and cancer during the second day of the trial. She has testified for plaintiffs in previous trials where the St. Louis juries awarded more than $300 million to four women with ovarian cancer.

In those trials, Plunkett said that long-term exposure to talc particles can cause inflammation, which is linked to cancer. She explained that talc molecules could enter cells, possibly changing the expression of genes in ways that could promote tumor growth. Plunkett’s testimony was damning to J&J in the Missouri courts. “I don’t think there’s any question talc is toxic… don’t feel there’s any question about this at all, it’s taught in textbooks,” she said.

In the Los Angeles court, she testified that, “[Talc] doses on a daily basis, if they sit in the tissue over time, the more and more body burden that builds up in those tissues can lead to continual toxicity within the tissues, and that’s this chronic inflammation.” (The trial can be seen on Courtroom View Network.)

She is testifying on behalf of six women who developed ovarian cancer. Lead plaintiff Eva Echeverria, a California woman (and the reason the trial is held in this state rathe than Missouri) is the first woman to have her case go to trial in California – hundreds of women have filed lawsuits in this state. Echeverria alleges that she developed ovarian cancer as a result of using J&J products like Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower while residing in the state.

J&J is represented by Bart Williams of Proskauer Rose, who along with his co-counsel Manuel Cachán successfully landed the first and only defense verdict for J&J in an ovarian cancer talc case, according to the Courtroom View Network (CVN). Williams showed jurors a list of agencies that arguably declined to label talc as a carcinogen, including the FDA and the CDC. As for the studies cited by plaintiffs, Williams said they are "incomplete" and an "inaccurate reflection of the evidence”. He told the jurors that, “It's about plaintiffs' lawyers and their consultants trying to get you scared," but the St. Louis jurors weren’t scared. And of what, ovarian cancer or siding with plaintiffs?

Echeverria’s lawsuit has similar charges against J&J as did plaintiffs in the St. Louis trials: J&J had internal knowledge for decades of scientific studies that showed talc used on the genital area could cause particles to travel up the fallopian tubes and cause cancer. And J&J supposedly knowingly withheld that information from the general public to protect the sales of popular brands, and continued to do so, even when it began to sell safer cornstarch-based powder products.

Talcum powders are made of talc, a mineral comprised of bits of magnesium, silicon and oxygen that absorbs moisture. Some talc contains asbestos, a known carcinogen, in its natural form. While J& J is likely using in court information that commercial products sold in the U.S. have been asbestos-free since the 1970s, some women used talc before the 1970s. Echeverria is 63 years old, and claims she used J&J products all her life. Feasibly, she used talc containing asbestos for more than a decade.

CVN says the trial will likely continue until mid-August, and they will webcast the proceedings gavel to gavel. The case is part of the consolidated Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Cases, case number JCCP4872, in the Superior Court of California for Los Angeles County.

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READER COMMENTS

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Has anyone ever looked into women also getting cancer in the bladder from using these powders ? Concerning to know someone who has bladder cancer on the bottom of her bladder. She is 61 and used it for at least 48 yrs. So it makes you wonder if that too could be how she got it. All so sad

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