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Body Powder and Cancer: When an Old Friend Turns on You…

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Washington, DCOne can imagine the shock and dismay at the realization that a heritage product held for generations as a safe and effective strategy for hygiene, and trusted akin to Mom’s apple pie, carries a dark health risk. And yet, as many a body powder lawsuit asserts, talcum powder is alleged to cause ovarian cancer, a risk that has been known as far back as 1971.

It was then that British researchers uncovered the first indication that talcum powder, a product that’s been around for a century, could be linked to dire health consequences. Ten of 13 ovarian tumors were analyzed and found with particles of talc “deeply embedded within the tumors.” Ten out of 13 - a vast majority of the, albeit, small sample size.

That was the first sign of a link between body powder and cancer, and the first storm in an otherwise gentle sea that had been relatively tranquil prior to that time. Women were canvassed by their mothers to use talcum powder on a daily basis for feminine hygiene. That’s because their grandmothers did the same thing. Everybody trusted talcum powder, manufactured under various names by Johnson & Johnson. However, the most memorable and endearing brand has been Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder. How could anything that carried anything remotely sinister be appropriate for babies?

And, consequently, adults, as J&J started to aggressively market Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder as body powder for adult hygiene.

And then came 1971.

And then, 1982 - when an epidemiologist from Brigham & Women’s Hospital published a study that showed a statistical link between talcum powder use in the female genital area and ovarian cancer. At some point thereafter a representative from Johnson & Johnson contacted Dr. Daniel Cramer to discuss his research and persuade Dr. Cramer that using Johnson’s Baby Powder was harmless. Dr. Cramer begged to differ.

Since Cramer’s groundbreaking study was published in 1982, there have been some 20 subsequent studies, each finding that genital talc use is associated with an ovarian cancer risk of some 33 percent. By 2006, the World Health Organization was out with a warning that the use of talc was potentially linked to cancer.

However, long before that - in 1997, according to many a talcum powder lawsuit - internal memoranda emerging from within Johnson & Johnson suggested the manufacturer knew about the potential for body powder and cancer. A consultant hired by J&J came back with the observation that to deny any potential link between ovarian cancer and talc would be a denial of the obvious, “in the face of all evidence to the contrary,” said Alfred Wehner.

A reality that only serves to exacerbate the problem is the fact that talcum powder is classed as a cosmetic - thus, regulatory authority is very thin. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has virtually no standing for cosmetics.

The first Johnson & Johnson lawsuit came back with a warning for Johnson & Johnson, but did not result in monetary damages to the plaintiff. That track was soon abandoned, however, as jurors since have awarded substantial monetary awards to plaintiffs.

To that end, women young or old now facing a diagnosis of ovarian cancer and having a history of talcum powder use for feminine hygiene would be wise to consult a legal professional to discuss a potential talcum powder lawsuit. You could be facing the unfortunate partnership of body powder and cancer. Talcum powder lawsuits are now spreading across the globe, including Canada. A class-action lawsuit in America’s neighbor to the north asserts that Johnson & Johnson was well aware of the risk for body powder and cancer, yet “failed to disclose these defects and the resulting risks to the health, and life of the plaintiffs.”

One of those plaintiffs is Shaeda Farooqi, a survivor of ovarian cancer and a frequent user of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder.
“I feel like I have been betrayed by an old friend,” she says.
“I trusted the product and was devastated to learn that it caused my ovarian cancer.

“It feels like being in the deep end of the pool and having someone let go of my hand…”


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