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Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Lawsuit: $3.9 Billion Now Earmarked For Settlements

Author
Amanda Turner
March 14, 2021

Many parents have used Johnson & Johnson talc-based products (such as baby powder) for both themselves and their children throughout their lifetimes. No parent using baby powder intended to harm their child, however, the use of baby powder has been linked to the development of several types of cancer.

Talc itself isn’t the problem. Talc is a naturally-occurring mineral known for its softness. It’s often found in the ground near asbestos, another naturally-occurring mineral. The two minerals easily mix, and stringent, regular testing is necessary by companies. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate baby powder and other cosmetic products, leaving it up to individual companies to provide their customers with safe, asbestos-free, talc-based products.

talcum powder lawsuit

Company documents show that Johnson & Johnson knew of the possibility that their talc was contaminated with asbestos since 1957. The company’s baby powders often tested positive for small amounts of asbestos from the late 1950s (or earlier) to the early 2000s. Johnson & Johnson did not inform customers of the potential danger of their product, putting millions of lives at risk. 

The company has earmarked $3.9 billion in preparation for talc-related settlements and expects to face at least 25,000 lawsuits.

Talc-Based Baby Powder Linked To Several Cancers

Most people do not encounter asbestos in their day-to-day lives. Cancers associated with asbestos exposure are usually diagnosed in men who have worked in mines and in shipbuilding, where they were exposed to the mineral before the connection between asbestos and cancer became public knowledge. 

The use of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder has been linked to mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer. While asbestos exposure is also linked to lung cancer, this appears to be related to heavy, regular exposure rather than the use of baby powder. 

Research on the connection between baby powder and cancer is ongoing, and other types of cancers may be linked to baby powder exposure.

Johnson & Johnson Knowingly Sold Cancer-Linked Baby Powder

The timeline of events makes it clear: Johnson & Johnson had decades to speak out to customers about the link between their baby powder and cancer, and they chose to stay silent. 

1930 — Surgeons noticed that talcum powder on surgical gloves caused post-operative granulomatous peritonitis (inflammation of abdominal wall membrane).

1957 — A consulting lab performing product testing for Johnson & Johnson reports that the company’s talc supplier is providing a contaminated product. The contaminants in the talc are described as fibrous tremolite — a mineral classified as asbestos. 

1971 — Johnson & Johnson records show that product testing reported small amounts of asbestos in both raw talc and finished talcum powders. During this year, researchers discovered talc particles “deeply embedded” in cervical and ovarian tumors. 

1982 — A researcher at Harvard discovered that women who used talcum powder on their genital area were three times more likely to develop ovarian cancer than women who did not use talcum powder. In the 1980s, Johnson & Johnson began to market a new talc-based product, Shower to Shower Body Powder. 

1992 — A memo circulates through Johnson & Johnson discussing pushing talcum powder to Hispanic and African-American women. 

1993 — Talc is classified as a carcinogen by the U.S. National Toxicology Program. 

1994 — The Cancer Prevention Coalition asks Johnson & Johnson to either educate the public on the dangers of talcum powder or pull talc-based products from the shelves. Johnson & Johnson ignores these requests. 

1997 — Johnson & Johnson is hit with their first lawsuit alleging that talc causes cancer

2010 — The World Health Organization states that the use of talcum powder increases the likelihood of ovarian cancer by 30 to 60%. 

2016 — Johnson & Johnson is ordered to pay a $72 million settlement to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer after using the company’s talc-based products. By the end of the year, 1,800 similar lawsuits were filed against Johnson & Johnson in St. Louis alone. 

2019 — The United States Justice Department began a criminal investigation against Johnson & Johnson to discover whether the company purposely misled consumers regarding the risks of talcum powder. 

2020 — Johnson & Johnson decided to stop selling its talc-based baby powder in Canada and the United States, but would continue to sell the product to the rest of the world. 

talcum lawsuit settlement

$3.9 Billion Earmarked For Talc Settlements

According to a Johnson & Johnson filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company has set aside $3.9 billion in preparation for lawsuits related to the use of talc-based products. 

Johnson & Johnson knew that their products could cause cancer, and chose to withhold this information from consumers. If you or a loved one have suffered from cancer and have used baby powder or other talc-based Johnson & Johnson products, it’s important to get a free case evaluation as soon as possible. 

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We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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