Anna Gragert
February 26, 2016 8:27 am
Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson now has to pay a family $72 million because of a product that many of us have used time and time again: baby powder.

Back in October 2015, 65-year-old Jackie Fox lost her battle with ovarian cancer. Before her passing, Fox believed that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder was the cause of her cancer and she decided to sue them. Following her death, Fox’s son took over as plaintiff and a Missouri jury recently sided with him. Now, the company owes the Fox family $72 million in damages.

While this may be one specific (costly) case, there are at least 1,000 other, baby powder-related lawsuits occurring all across the nation. All of them believe that this product – which is supposedly “hygienic” – is the source of their diseases. Why? Well, many women use baby powder on their genitalia to make them feel dry and fresh. Yet, Dr. Mary Peterson advises against this, stating that “there are other ways to keep dry.” The American Cancer Society reports that such baby powder/ovarian cancer findings have been mixed and inconclusive.

Ovarian cancer charity Ovacome states that this type of cancer is likely to be caused by “a combination of many different inherited and environmental factors, rather than one cause such as talc…” Responding to studies proposing that using baby powder on genitalia increases the chance that one will get ovarian cancer by 1/3, Ovacome adds, “Ovarian cancer is a rare disease, and increasing a small risk by a third still gives a small risk. So even if talc does increase the risk slightly, very few women who use talc will ever get ovarian cancer.”

During Fox’s trial, the family’s lawyers provided this evidence: a 1997, Johnson & Johnson internal memo from a medical consultant. It indicates that “anybody who denies [the] risks” between “hygenic” baby powder use and ovarian cancer would be “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.” Because of this, Fox’s attorneys assert that Johnson & Johnson knew of talc’s risks and that they’ve been lying to regulatory agencies.

In the end, the jury found Johnson & Johnson to be guilty of negligence, fraud, and conspiracy. The company’s response: “We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers, and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial. We sympathise with the plaintiff’s family but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence.”

While findings relating to the relationship between ovarian cancer and baby powder may be inconclusive, we still hope that regulatory agencies look into this discrepancy. We’re looking at you, FDA.

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