Scientists began connecting talc with diagnoses of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer and making their findings public in the 1970s and 1980s, respectively.
A causal link between talc and ovarian cancer was discovered in the first scientific study conducted in 1971. Tumors of the cervix and ovary were the focus of this research. The presence of asbestos fibers within the talc that was discovered entrenched deep within these tissues has led to the hypothesis that talcum powder may cause ovarian cancer, thus launching 5 decades of continuing studies.
Although some studies have not found an association between talc powder products and ovarian cancer, many scientific research investigations have found such a link to be present. Victims of talcum powder exposure have been regularly compensated by juries despite contradictory research.
The link between talcum powder, ovarian cancer, and mesothelioma has been known for years. Although talc has appeared in consumer products since the 1800s, it was not until the 1970s that the safety of this extremely popular mineral was truly called into question.
Asbestos was linked to mesothelioma and cancer in the mid-20th century when increasing numbers of men who worked in asbestos mines or jobs that exposed them to asbestos, like construction, manufacturing, and shipyards, began to develop the illness. This has long been backed with scientific evidence.
Accordingly, the government could not look the other way when it later discovered that talc was frequently found to be contaminated by asbestos, a mineral that often occurs in rock deposits adjacent to talc deposits. As such, in 1973, the government put forth legislation requiring that all talcum powders be asbestos-free.
The discovery of asbestos in talc shed important light on the mystery of how women were developing mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer, when they did not typically work in the same environments as men. The answer was talcum powder, a popular ingredient in cosmetics and hygiene products.
This revelation also meant that men who worked in the mining, manufacturing, and production of/and with talc were also being exposed to heavy amounts of talc and suffering from mesothelioma many years later as a result of breathing the mineral in.
On the heels of this growing awareness surrounding the dangers of talc, in 1976, the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association—the organization for the cosmetics and personal care products industry—urged its members and the industry at large to commence manufacturing their cosmetic products using only asbestos-free talc.
They packaged this request with voluntary guidelines for how to make this transition in their processes. Unfortunately, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 did not require companies to share information about product safety, leaving the whole matter to rest on the honor system. As a result, consumers of cosmetic, personal care, and other talc-based products were never informed of the unwitting incorporation of asbestos into their daily routines.
By their own admission in internal documents, the leading talcum powder maker, Johnson & Johnson, knew for decades that their baby powder and other products contained asbestos.
A 1982 Harvard study in the journal Cancer assessed 215 women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer. Each study participant was asked about her regular use of talcum powder. Results of the study indicated that 92% of the women had regularly used talcum powder either to dust their genital area or by virtue of its presence on sanitary napkins.
After this investigation, it was concluded that women who claimed long-term use of talc-based powders were at a higher relative risk than those who had not. This research offered tentative backing for a link between talcum powder products and ovarian cancer.
Dr. Daniel Cramer, the epidemiologist who led this study, wrote in his conclusions that the findings supported a link between talc and ovarian cancer for two reasons:
One of the most comprehensive studies of the risk factors for women’s chronic diseases was conducted by Dr. Cramer in 2000 and was based on data from the Nurses’ Health Study. The report was then published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. He identified a 40% greater risk for a particular kind of ovarian cancer.
Dr. Cramer conducted case-control research on the association between talc and ovarian cancer in 2015 to further examine this issue. According to a study that was published in the journal Epidemiology, women who used talcum powder on their genitalia had a 33 percent increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Katie Terry, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, published another investigation into the relationship between talc use and the risk of ovarian cancer in 2013. She collected information from eight different case-control studies. Her analysis in Cancer Prevention Research showed that patients who frequently used talcum powder on their genital areas had a 24 percent higher risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer.
Johnson & Johnson has been the subject of thousands of lawsuits due to its talc-based products, such as baby powder and body powder. Women have alleged that over decades of use, they developed ovarian cancer as a result.
The company has denied any carcinogenic risk and maintained that its talc-based body powders are free of asbestos, yet they have lost multiple court cases involving these products. To date, Johnson & Johnson has already spent billions settling similar product liability lawsuits and paying out jury verdicts in favor of plaintiffs, although some verdicts were appealed by the company.
Despite their protestations that their product is safe, the company stopped selling Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder in 2023. The amount of money being spent on legal fees and compensations likely far exceed what it would take for them to develop and implement safer alternatives.
If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma after regular use of or exposure to talcum-based powders, Zanes Law will do everything from A to Z to see that you recover damages related to your illness. The link between talcum powder, ovarian cancer, and mesothelioma has been known for many years.
If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related type of cancer, contact us for a free case review and consultation so we can begin fighting for the justice you deserve.
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