A US jury has awarded $72 million in damages to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer, which she said was caused by prolonged use of health giant Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and other talcum-based products.
The woman, Jackie Fox, died in 2015 aged 62.
The award by a jury in Missouri state will get global attention as Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and other talcum-based products, which the company insists are scientifically sound, are widely used the world over, including in India.
The civil suit started by Fox, as part of a broader case involving 60 others in St Louis circuit court, was taken over and pursued by her son Marvin Salter, who told the Associated Press his mother used Johnson & Johnson baby powder for decades as a bathroom staple for female hygiene. “It just became second nature, like brushing your teeth.”
The company, which is considering its next move, insisted its products are safe. Spokesperson Carol Goodrich said, “The recent US verdict goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products, and while we sympathise with the family of the plaintiff, we strongly disagree with the outcome.”
Fox’s lawyer claimed doing the trial the company was aware of the possible risks of using products containing talcum for feminine hygienic use. AP reported that a 1997 internal memo from a company medical consultant said “anybody who denies” the risk of using hygienic talc and ovarian cancer is “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary”.
Talcum powder is made of talc, a mineral made up of magnesium, silicon and oxygen. In powder form, it absorbs moisture and helps cut down on friction, making it useful for keeping skin dry and helping to prevent rashes.
The American Cancer Society says concerns about a possible link between talcum powder and cancer have been focused on, one when those who are involved in talc mining are at risk and two, “whether women who apply talcum powder regularly in the genital area have an increased risk of ovarian cancer”.