Talcum powder, specifically talcum powder sold by Johnson & Johnson, has been in the news over the years for fear of contamination with the powerful carcinogen asbestos. Women sued the company stating that they developed ovarian cancer as a result of using the powder.
Recently, Johnson & Johnson asked the Supreme Court to step in and void the $2 billion award given. The company argued that it did not get a fair trial in state court in Missouri. There, an initial award of $4.7 million was given to a lawsuit involving 22 women who had previously used talc products and developed cancer.
While a state appeals court did cut around half of the award out of the verdict and removed two of the plaintiffs after arguments from J&J, the outcome was otherwise upheld.
The jury agrees with the victims in the main case
In the main case, the jury believed the women who came forward complaining about the company’s use of asbestos-laced products. It agreed that the talc products did have asbestos contaminants and that the contaminants could be linked to ovarian cancer. The judge involved in that case also found that the company knew about the potential harm but yet continued to misrepresent the safety of those products over several decades.
Johnson & Johnson still doesn’t agree
According to Johnson & Johnson, its talc products do not cause cancer. It claims that the Missouri-based trial was at odds with years, decades even, of independent scientific studies that had proven that the popular Johnson’s Baby Powder was safe. Interestingly, talc is similar in structure to asbestos and is often mined from the same locations as asbestos. Since 1976, the cosmetics industry has been aware and in agreement to avoid having asbestos in any of its talc products.
This isn’t really the issue J&J is appealing, though. It is instead saying that trying to defend itself against women from 12 different states, all of whom had different histories and backgrounds, was unfair. For now, the company has appealed to the Supreme Court to take action. In the future, the results could make a significant difference for victims of asbestos exposure.