The History of Talcum Powder Lawsuits: How Did We Get Here?



For over a century, talcum powder has been a common household product used by millions of people for various purposes, including personal hygiene and baby care. However, in recent years, it has come under scrutiny due to its potential health risks.

Studies have linked talcum powder use to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, which has led to numerous lawsuits against talcum powder manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson.

Despite this, Statista reports that millions of Americans continue to use Johnson’s baby powder, with 43.34 million using it in 2020 alone. This highlights the importance of consumer education and awareness when it comes to potentially harmful products and the need for manufacturers to prioritize safety and transparency in their practices.

Let’s take a look at the history of talcum powder lawsuits and how we got here.

The Early Days of Talcum Powder

In the late 1800s, talcum powder was introduced as a product primarily for preventing diaper rash in babies. Its usefulness quickly gained popularity among women for personal hygiene purposes. The powder is made from talc, a mineral composed mainly of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen.

Talcum powder is highly absorbent, making it an effective moisture absorber and reducing friction, which is essential for keeping skin dry and preventing rashes. However, it wasn’t until 1973 that the FDA began regulating the product, leaving consumers exposed to potential health risks for decades.

The First Talcum Powder Lawsuit

As early as 1971, a group of scientists discovered that talcum powder contained asbestos, which is a known carcinogen. Despite this finding, Johnson & Johnson continued to market their talcum powder products as safe.

In 1982, the first talcum powder lawsuit was filed against the company, but it was ultimately dismissed. Alongside this, scientists have been studying the potential link between the use of talcum powder in feminine hygiene routines and ovarian cancer since the 1970s.

Despite being marketed for use on babies and as a part of a daily feminine ritual, increasing evidence suggests that talcum powder may be linked to ovarian cancer. In fact, according to TorHoerman Law, a recent study found that women who regularly use talc products in the genital area have a 33% higher chance of developing cancer.

More Talcum Powder Lawsuits and Settlements

Johnson & Johnson has faced a growing number of talcum powder lawsuits over the years, with many of them claiming that the company knew about the potential link between talcum powder and cancer, but neglected to inform consumers.

In 2016, one of these lawsuits resulted in a verdict against the company, in which it was ordered to pay $72 million in damages a woman’s family. She had died from ovarian cancer allegedly caused by talcum powder use.

In July 2018, a high-profile talcum powder lawsuit in St. Louis resulted in a staggering $4.69 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson. The lawsuit involved 22 plaintiffs, including the families of six women who had died from ovarian cancer, all of whom had used Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products.

The plaintiffs’ attorney argued that the talcum powder contained asbestos, which is a known carcinogen, and that this caused the women’s ovarian cancer. The jury agreed and awarded $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages, sending a strong message to Johnson & Johnson.

Despite the massive verdict, Johnson & Johnson attempted to overturn it, arguing that the trial was flawed and that the evidence did not support the verdict. However, the judge upheld the verdict, sending a clear signal to Johnson & Johnson that they would be held accountable for the harm caused by their products.

The Future of Talcum Powder Lawsuits

The talcum powder lawsuit saga has been ongoing for several years, with Johnson & Johnson facing thousands of lawsuits from consumers who claim that their talcum powder products caused their cancer.

While the company has consistently denied these claims and maintained the safety of its products, the sheer number of lawsuits and the massive verdicts in several high-profile cases suggest that there may be more to this issue than meets the eye. In response, Johnson & Johnson announced in 2020 that it would no longer sell talcum powder products in the US and Canada, citing a decline in consumer demand.

Final Thoughts

The history of talcum powder lawsuits is a cautionary tale about the importance of regulation and consumer safety. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer linked to talcum powder use, it’s important to seek legal help and hold the manufacturers accountable. As consumers, we have the right to products that are safe and free from harm.