Talcum Powder Lawsuits Settled for $700 Million

Talcum Powder Lawsuits Settled for $700 Million

(HealthDay News) — Johnson & Johnson will pay $700 million to settle claims from 42 states and the District of Columbia that the company continued to market its talcum powder products even as evidence tied them to a heightened risk for cancer.

J&J did not admit to any wrongdoing in settling with the states, which were led by Florida, Texas and North Carolina.

“We have reached a landmark settlement with Johnson & Johnson ensuring that the company will abide by the law and take effective steps to protect consumers from potentially hazardous ingredients,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement released Tuesday. “I’m proud to lead this coalition of 43 attorneys general to stand up for consumers’ health and truth in marketing.”

As part of the settlement, which still needs judicial approval, the company has stopped making, promoting and selling all of its products that contain talcum powder. That includes Johnson’s Baby Powder and Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower. J&J will make four settlement payments, starting at the end of July, according to the settlement.

“This is a major advancement for consumer product safety, as Johnson & Johnson has stopped the manufacturing and marketing of products containing talc powder — which may be linked to serious health issues, including cancer,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement.

“Companies cannot deceive people about the safety of the products they are selling,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said in a statement. “People need to have accurate information so they can buy the right products for their health.”

J&J stopped selling talcum-based baby powder globally last year, switching to corn starch as the main ingredient. The company still faces tens of thousands of talc lawsuits, and a class action lawsuit accuses company of hiding the dangers of talcum powder from shareholders, Reuters reported.

As of March 31, more than 61,000 were still suing J&J over talcum powder products. Most are women with ovarian cancer, while a smaller number had mesothelioma, a type of cancer linked to asbestos exposure, Reuters reported.

On May 1, J&J proposed a $6.48 billion settlement to resolve most of the litigation through a third bankruptcy filing. It has set aside an $11 billion reserve to cover all talc liabilities, Reuters reported.

“The company continues to pursue several paths to achieve a comprehensive and final resolution of the talc litigation,” Erik Haas, J&J’s worldwide vice president of litigation, said in a statement.

Why is talcum powder dangerous?

Talc, a mineral commonly found in baby powder and cosmetics, has come under scrutiny for potential health concerns.

Research suggests a possible association between genital talc use and ovarian cancer, particularly in postmenopausal women. The concern lies in talc particles migrating through the reproductive system, though the exact mechanism is unclear. Some studies show no clear connection.

When applied genitally, talc may travel through the vagina, cervix, and uterus, reaching the ovaries. This theory suggests talc particles could irritate ovarian tissue, leading to chronic inflammation, a risk factor for some cancers.

Studies have yielded mixed results. Some research, like a 1982 study by Dr. Dwight Cramer, observed a connection between genital talc use and increased ovarian cancer risk.

The American Cancer Society acknowledges the research on talc and ovarian cancer but emphasizes the inconclusive nature of the evidence. Factors like study design and difficulty in controlling for all variables make it challenging to establish a clear cause-and-effect relationship.

The research is ongoing, and more studies are needed to solidify the connection. Not all talcum powder is created equal. Contamination with asbestos, a known carcinogen, was a historical concern. However, some manufacturers ensure their products are asbestos-free.

More information

The Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance has more on talcum powder and cancer.

SOURCE: Florida Attorney General, news release, June 12, 2024; Texas Attorney General, news release, June 12, 2024; North Carolina Attorney General, news release, June 12, 2024; Reuters

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