A jury in St. Louis will soon decide whether to award compensation to a woman who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson’s Baby Powder for over 40 years.
The lawsuit is Ristesund v. Johnson & Johnson Case No. 1422-CC09012-01 in Missouri Circuit Court.
The plaintiff is Gloria Ristesund, a 62 year-old woman who used baby powder genitally for most of her life. In 2011, she was diagnosed with endometrioid ovarian cancer and had a hysterectomy.
Lawyers say her repeated use of baby powder and pre-existing endometriosis increased her risk of ovarian cancer by 214%. They say Johnson & Johnson knew about the risk but failed to warn consumers.
Instead, the company marketed talcum powder to adult women with slogans like “Just a sprinkle a day helps keep odor away.” Ristesund says she never would have used baby powder if she had known about the risk.
In opening arguments, lawyers told the jury: “This case is about profit over human life — specifically, women’s lives. … [J&J] put a corporate philosophy of profit over the safety of their customers.”
Lawyers presented several internal memos as evidence, including one from 1992 in which the company acknowledges the risk of cancer. The same memo recommends increasing marketing efforts toward black and Hispanic women.
In another memo from 1994, an expert warned that anybody who denies the link between talc and cancer is “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
This is the third trial against Johnson & Johnson over talcum powder. In February 2016, another jury in St. Louis awarded $72 million to the family of Jacqueline Fox, a black woman from Alabama who died of ovarian cancer after using baby powder for more than 35 years.
Approximately 1,200 ovarian cancer lawsuits are now pending against Johnson & Johnson nationwide. The size of the litigation has grown rapidly since November 2013, when a jury in South Dakota found the company negligent for failing to warn woman about the risk of cancer.
Evidence linking talc and cancer has been growing for decades. A study in 1971 found particles of talc in ovarian tissue from women with cancer, proving it can travel through the reproductive system.
Talc is an extremely soft mineral with a structure similar to asbestos, a known carcinogen. Before the 1970s, talcum powder was often contaminated with asbestos. Baby powder is now asbestos-free, but studies continue to demonstrate a 20-30% increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who use it routinely for genital hygiene.
Source: CVN, Reuters