Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay more than $100 million to resolve over 1,000 lawsuits blaming its talcum powder products for causing cancer. According to a Bloomberg news report, this is the first set of major settlements in four years of litigation. The agreements, made with several law firms representing the victims, signal that the world’s largest manufacturer of healthcare products is trying to get ahead of the increasing litigation, with about 20,000 lawsuits still pending.
Asbestos and Talc
They mark the first time J&J has settled a bulk of the cases in the baby powder suits rather than individual suits on the eve of or during the trial. The deals come seven months since J&J last faced jurors reviewing evidence about the cancer risk associated with its baby powder, which the company has maintained is safe despite replacing it with cornstarch versions in Canada and the United States. A trial over a factory worker’s claims of mesothelioma tied to talcum powder is scheduled to begin this month in California.
A spokeswoman for the pharmaceutical giant said the company has settled the lawsuits without admission of liability and will not change its position regarding the safety of their products. She said the talc is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer. In the California trial starting this month, in state court in Oakland, Rosalino Reyes III says he used the company’s baby powder for about 50 years and was diagnosed with the asbestos-linked cancer in 2019. Opening arguments by videoconference are scheduled to begin Oct. 13.
Talcum Powder and Cancer Link
Talcum powder is made from talc, which is a naturally occurring mineral mined from rock deposits. Talc is the softest known mineral and when it’s finely ground, it creates a smooth powder that absorbs moisture, reduces odors, and cuts down on friction. Those properties make it an ideal ingredient in baby powder, deodorant, makeup and several other consumer products. Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is one of the best-known talcum powder products, which was widely used not only on infants but also by women as part of their daily feminine hygiene routine.
The link between talc and cancer has been hotly debated over the years. Talc mines typically contain asbestos and there is no doubt asbestos exposure through contaminated talc products can cause cancer. Even recent tests done by the Food and Drug Administration showed trace amounts of asbestos in J&J’s baby powder products. In May, J&J stopped selling talc-based baby powders in the U.S. and Canada.
If you or a loved one has developed ovarian cancer or mesothelioma as a result of using talc-based powders, our experienced talcum powder lawyers can help you better understand your legal rights and options.