February 24, 2016 — The family of an Alabama woman who died of ovarian cancer after using baby powder for feminine hygiene has been awarded $72 million by a jury in St. Louis, Missouri.
The woman, 62 year-old Jackie Fox of Birmingham, is part of a broader lawsuit involving nearly 60 people. Her son took over the case when she died in October 2015, and testified that she used talcum powder for decades.
Evidence presented by lawyers for the Fox family included an internal memo from 1997 by a medical consultant who warned that “anybody who denies” the link between ovarian cancer and talc is “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
After a three-week trial and nearly five hours of deliberation, the jury awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $62 million in punitive damages, according to the Associated Press.
Johnson & Johnson is expected to appeal, but the verdict does not bode well as the company faces 1,200 lawsuits and possibly thousands more. Plaintiffs say they were not adequately warned about the risk of ovarian cancer, despite evidence going back decades.
When talcum powder is used for feminine hygiene, studies suggest it can migrate up the genital tract and accumulate inside the ovaries and cause inflammation. Before 1976, cosmetic talc sometimes contained fibers of asbestos, a known carcinogen. Studies have also found talc in the ovaries of women who were diagnosed with cancer.
The American Cancer Society says the link is inconclusive, but the World Health Organization cancer-research agency classifies talc as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Because baby powder is a cosmetic product, it does not have to undergo review by the FDA. However, it must be safe for consumers to use and properly labeled.
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