Trial is underway in California on behalf of 6 women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after years of using talcum powder. The lead plaintiff is Eva Echeverria, a woman who developed ovarian cancer in 2007.
Echeverria is the first woman to have her case go to trial out of hundreds of other women who have filed lawsuits in California. On the second day of the trial in Los Angeles, expert witness Laura Plunkett was called to testify on the link between talc and cancer.
Plunkett is a toxicologist and pharmacologist who has testified in multiple trials against Johnson & Johnson in St. Louis, where juries awarded over $300 million to 4 women with ovarian cancer last year.
Plunkett told the jury in California that talc is toxic. She believes it causes ovarian cancer by migrating into the ovaries when women sprinkle it on their genitals for many years. According to her trial testimony:
[Talc] doses on a daily basis, if they sit in the tissue over time, the more and more body burden that builds up in those tissues can lead to continual toxicity within the tissues, and that’s this chronic inflammation.”
Lawyers for Echeverria say Johnson & Johnson knew about the risk — or should have known — but instead chose to ignore dozens of studies. The evidence linking talc and cancer dates back to the 1970s, when particles of talc were found in the ovaries of women who died.
Earlier this year, yet another study linking talc and a 20-30% increased risk of ovarian cancer was published in the European Journal for Cancer Prevention. The conclusions were based on a meta-analysis of 27 studies involving 302,705 women with ovarian cancer.
Talc and asbestos are closely-related minerals that are often found together in the ground. Asbestos is a carcinogen that causes mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs. Likewise, talc is associated with a type of ovarian cancer that starts in the lining of the ovaries.
Talcum powder was often contaminated with asbestos before the 1970s. While talc products today should be asbestos-free, studies continue to associated the long-term use of talcum powder with higher rates of ovarian cancer.
The lawsuit is In RE: Eva Echeverria et al. v. Johnson & Johnson et al. — Case No. BC628228.
The coordinated proceeding in the Superior Court of the State of California (Los Angeles County) is In RE: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Cases — Case No. JCCP4872.