Jury awards record-setting $110.5M in baby powder lawsuit

Jury awards record-setting $110.5M in baby powder lawsuit

The St Louis state court's verdict was the largest so far to come out of about 2,400 lawsuits accusing J&J of not adequately warning consumers about the cancer risks of talc-based products, including its well-known Johnson's Baby Powder.

Thursday's verdict came in a lawsuit against J&J and talc supplier Imerys Talc by Lois Slemp, a resident of Virginia who is now undergoing chemotherapy after her ovarian cancer initially diagnosed in 2012 returned and spread to her liver.

Three previous St. Louis juries awarded a total of nearly $200 million to plaintiffs who made similar claims; those cases are under appeal. The company plans to appeal these verdicts and already won one suit against it.

In its natural form, talc can sometimes contain asbestos, which is known to cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled.

The evidence concerning asbestos-free talcum products and cancer risk is more unclear. Some studies on animals have shown that talc can cause tumors, but others have not. Even though it has not yet been conclusively proven that long-term use of talcum powder, especially in the genital area, can cause ovarian cancer, the court has ordered the company to compensate the affected woman to the tune of $110m.

A Virginia woman blames her ovarian cancer on years of using baby powder. Different studies on the link between cancer and use of talcum powder were inconclusive, however. Now there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer.

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It's nearly impossible to prove that any single person's cancer was caused by something specific.

Early symptoms of ovarian cancer include feeling bloated, having a swollen stomach, and having to urinate more often than normal. It affects about 21,000 US women a year, and while there are clear genetic causes, doctors don't know what causes most cases. However, in 2006, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified talc as a possible carcinogen. About 22,000 women are diagnosed with it annually and 14,000 die from it, according to the American Cancer Society. Most major health groups have declared talc harmless.

Is there still talc in baby powder?

Talcum powder has been widely used in cosmetics and other personal care products to absorb moisture since at least 1894, when Johnson & Johnson's baby powder was launched.

Because of its size and diversified product lines, J&J is sued frequently and investors don't panic when it loses product liability lawsuits, so its stock price rarely drops much after losses.

It is used in eye shadow, blush and some chewing gums as well as baby powder.

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