Over R970m awarded to woman in ‘can­cer-caus­ing’ baby pow­der law­suit

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis jury on Thurs­day awarded a Cal­i­for­nia woman more than $70m (about R971m) in her law­suit al­leg­ing that years of us­ing John­son & John­son’s baby pow­der caused her can­cer, the lat­est case rais­ing con­cerns about the health ram­i­fi­ca­tions of ex­tended tal­cum pow­der use.

The jury rul­ing ended the trial that be­gan Septem­ber 26 in the case brought by Deb­o­rah Gian­nec­chini of Modesto, Cal­i­for­nia. She was di­ag­nosed with ovar­ian can­cer in 2012. The suit ac­cused John­son & John­son of “neg­li­gent con­duct” in mak­ing and mar­ket­ing its baby pow­der.

“We are pleased the jury did the right thing,” said Jim On­der, an at­tor­ney for the plain­tiff. “They once again reaf­firmed the need for John­son & John­son to warn the pub­lic of the ovar­ian can­cer risk as­so­ci­ated with its prod­uct.”

Carol Goodrich, a spokesper­son with John­son & John­son, could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment.

In a state­ment pro­vided to the St. Louis PostDis­patch, she said: “We deeply sym­pa­thise with the women and fam­i­lies im­pacted by ovar­ian can­cer. We will ap­peal to­day’s ver­dict be­cause we are guided by the sci­ence, which sup­ports the safety of John­son’s Baby Pow­der.”

Ear­lier this year, two other law­suits in St. Louis ended in jury ver­dicts worth a com­bined $127m. But two oth­ers in New Jer­sey were thrown out by a judge who said there wasn’t re­li­able ev­i­dence that talc leads to ovar­ian can­cer, an of­ten fa­tal but rel­a­tively rare form of can­cer.

Ovar­ian can­cer ac­counts for about 22 000 of the 1.7 mil­lion new cases of can­cer ex­pected to be di­ag­nosed in the US this year.

About 2 000 women have filed sim­i­lar suits, and lawyers are re­view­ing thou­sands of other po­ten­tial cases, most gen­er­ated by ads tout­ing the two big ver­dicts out of St. Louis — a $72m award in Fe­bru­ary to rel­a­tives of an Alabama woman who died of ovar­ian can­cer, and a $55m award in May to a South Dakota sur­vivor of the dis­ease.

Much re­search has found no link or a weak one be­tween ovar­ian can­cer and us­ing baby pow­der for fem­i­nine hy­giene, and most ma­jor health groups have de­clared talc harm­less. John­son & John­son, whose baby pow­der dom­i­nates the mar­ket, main­tains it’s per­fectly safe.

But On­der of the On­der Law Firm in sub­ur­ban St. Louis, which rep­re­sented plain­tiffs in all three St. Louis cases, cited other re­search that be­gan con­nect­ing tal­cum pow­der to ovar­ian can­cer in the 1970s. He said case stud­ies have in­di­cated that women who reg­u­larly use talc on their gen­i­tal area face up to a 40% higher risk of de­vel­op­ing ovar­ian can­cer.

On­der has ac­cused John­son & John­son of mar­ket­ing to­ward over­weight women, black peo­ple and His­panic peo­ple – the very same women most at-risk for ovar­ian can­cer, he said.

Fac­tors known to in­crease a woman’s risk of ovar­ian can­cer in­clude age, obe­sity, use of oe­stro­gen ther­apy af­ter menopause, not hav­ing any chil­dren, cer­tain ge­netic mu­ta­tions and per­sonal or fam­ily his­tory of breast or ovar­ian can­cer.

The In­ter­na­tional Agency for Re­search on Can­cer clas­si­fies gen­i­tal use of talc as “pos­si­bly car­cino­genic”. The Na­tional Tox­i­col­ogy Pro­gramme, made up of parts of sev­eral dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment agen­cies, has not fully re­viewed talc.

Talc is a min­eral that is mined from de­posits around the world, in­clud­ing the US. The soft­est of min­er­als, it’s crushed into a white pow­der.

It’s 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. But it’s mainly used in a va­ri­ety of other prod­ucts, in­clud­ing paint and plas­tics.

The two St. Louis ver­dicts were the first tal­cum pow­der cases in which money was awarded. A fed­eral jury in 2013 sided with an­other South Dakota woman, but it or­dered no dam­ages, a spokesper­son for On­der’s firm said.

John­son & John­son has been tar­geted be­fore by health and con­sumer groups over in­gre­di­ents in its prod­ucts, in­clud­ing John­son’s ‘No More Tears’ baby sham­poo.

The com­pany agreed in 2012 to elim­i­nate 1,4-diox­ane and formalde­hyde, both con­sid­ered prob­a­ble car­cino­gens, from all prod­ucts by 2015. — AP.

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