Talcum Powder Lawsuits Prove Strong Cancer Risk

Johnson’s Baby Powder has been a staple in many householdsfor over a century, but recent talcum powder lawsuits against the conglomeratehave exposed the cancer risks associated with its use.  

First marketed by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in 1894,Johnson’s Baby Powder became a staple to prevent diaper rash, but other usesfor the powder were soon discovered, and it became widespread in many otherproducts marketed to consumers.

Baby powder is known to be an absorbent, light substance,making it ideal for many uses. Besides its use as a baby powder, the companymarketed the powder as a feminine hygiene product for women because of itsability to absorb moisture and prevent rashes. It was also formulated for usein cosmetics, deodorants, and dry shampoos. Innovative consumers found ituseful for everything from keeping playing cards from sticking together tofreshening shoes.

The product contains talc, a soft mineral that is mined,then ground into a powder referred to as talcum or talc. Talc by itself is notknown to be harmful. The issue is that it occurs naturally in the ground along with asbestos, which is a known cancer-causing agent.

It has been clearly shown that asbestoscauses cancer, including ovarian and lung cancer, mesothelioma, andlaryngeal cancer. Because talc and asbestos are mined together, this close linkmay be the source of cancer risk when using talc products.

Whether talcum powder increases the risk for cancer has beenstudied and discussed for many years. Recent developments make it more importantthan ever for consumers to understand the controversy that’s been brewing aroundtalcum powder.

As early as the 1950’s, laboratories found contaminantsin talc used by J&J that appeared to be consistent with asbestos, which isoften described as fibrous or needle-like. Since that time, studies by severallaboratories also showed these impurities.   

Scientists started questioning the relationship between talcand ovarian cancer as early as 1971. In that year a scientificpaper reported the results of a study that examined tissue from ovariantumors. The scientists found talc particles in the tumor tissue, and pointedout the connection between talc and asbestos. Other studies demonstrated themovement of talc particles to the ovaries. This sparked curiosity about theconnection with ovarian cancer.

Research from several other studies since then on women withovarian cancer who used talcum powder has shown everything from no risk to amoderate risk. One studythat looked at over 8,000 cases found a risk of ovarian cancer between 20 and 30percent in women who used talcum powder for feminine hygiene.

The link between talc and asbestos is troubling, but it’snotoriously difficultto prove what may cause a certain type of cancer.

Despite the studies and mounting evidence of the linkbetween talcum powder and ovarian cancer, J&J continued to market it, andinsisted that its powder did not contain asbestos. However, a recent investigationby Reuters reported that the company may have known their talcum powder wascontaminated with cancer-causing asbestos. According to this report, companydocuments uncovered as a result of talcum powder lawsuits show that from 1971to the early 2000s, the talc J&J used would sometimes test positive forasbestos.

Internal J&J reports reviewed during this investigationshow that most of their testing didn’t show any asbestos, but also noted thatJ&J’s test methods had limitations when detecting trace amounts ofasbestos. In addition, the company tested only a small fraction of its talc.

Other documents uncovered by Reuters show that J&J knewthat three tests by different labs between 1972 and 1975 found asbestos atlevels that were described as “ratherhigh.” Nevertheless, J&J told the FDA in 1976 that it did not findasbestos in any sample of talc from December 1972 to October 1973.

Further, Reuters uncovered that company officials discussed howto deal with the problem in company documents and reports during the 1970sand 1980s. While they were talking about it, they did not disclose theirconcerns to consumers or to regulatory agencies.

Over the past few years J&J has been hit with multiple lawsuitsalleging that its talc products caused cancer. Juries have awarded over $5billion to plaintiffs since 2016, and the company is currently facing nearly13,000 claims with up to $20 billion at stake. In February the Securities andExchange Commission and the Justice Department issued subpoenas to J&J relatedto these lawsuits.

Concerns about talc contaminated with asbestos go beyondbaby powder. Recently the FDA alerted consumers notto use three cosmetic products—eye shadows, contour palette, and compactpowder—from Claire’s Stores, Inc., due to these products testing positive forasbestos.

J&J deniesthat the company knew that its baby powder contained asbestos. They maintainthat their baby powder is free from asbestos and does not cause cancer.

People who are concerned about a serious cancer risk fromtalcum powder should consider staying away from it, or at least using itcautiously, until more scientific evidence of the link between talc andasbestos is available.

Know the Risks and Benefits of Medical Devices

Medical science continues to make great progress in diagnosingillnesses and treating them. Devices of many types allow doctors to see insidethe body to diagnose a variety of conditions. Other types of medical devicesthat are used or implanted inside the body provide relief from many painfulconditions. However, no matter how far medical science has progressed, thereare still risks and benefits that people need to consider before undergoingeven the most routine procedure involving a medical device.

Here are a few common devices and procedures, as well as someinjuries and issues that have been associated with them.

Medical Scopes

Each year, millions of people in the U.S. have a procedure witha medical scope of some type. In these procedures, a doctor places aninstrument called an endoscope inside the body to examine the esophagus,stomach, bile ducts, colon, lungs, bladder, or other organs. After eachprocedure these devices are cleaned and re-used on another patient. Duodenoscopes,which are used to diagnose and treat stomach and other GI tract conditions,have been of particular concern.

Since 2013, at least 35 people have died from after having aprocedure that used a duodenoscope. The problem is that the design of the scopemakes cleaningit extremely difficult, so even if the scope is cleaned according to themanufacturer’s instructions, bacteria can still be trapped inside the scope andtransferred to another patient. A paperpublished in April 2018 showed that 71 percent of scopes tested at three majorU.S. hospital were contaminated with bacteria.

In 2015 the FDAdirected three duodenoscope manufacturers (Olympus, Fujifilm, and Pentax) tostudy this issue. Interimresults of these studies released in December 2018 showed that up to threepercent of samples were contaminated with “low-concern” organisms, and up to threepercent were contaminated with organisms of high concern. Sampling iscontinuing.

One manufacturer, Olympus, pled guiltyin December 2018 to charges of failing to file reports about infections stemmingfrom its scopes.  The company agreed topay $85 million to resolve the charges. Additionally, the company settled lawsuitswith two women whose husbands died after undergoing a procedure with the scopeand becoming infected with a “superbug” bacteria resistant to most antibiotics.

Other types of scopes are similarly difficult to clean. Bronchoscopes,which are used to look inside the lungs, have also been found to be contaminated,even after cleaning, and have likewise been linked to “superbug” infections.

Bone Cement

There are over a million joint replacements performed eachyear in the U.S. In many of these procedures, the surgeon uses bone cement.Bone cement doesn’t actually “glue” the joint into place; it fills the spacebetween the artificial joint and the bone to keep the joint in place. The useof bone cement in joint replacements is not without complications, however. Thebone cement can break loose, which can cause pain and affect movement. It canalso leakinto the body.

The most serious problem is bone cement implantationsyndrome (BCIS).Fortunately, this complication is rare, but when it happens, it causes thecardiovascular system to collapse and can cause death,often during the procedure.  BCIS hasbeen reported with knee,shoulder, and hipreplacements. One studyfrom the UK reported 41 deaths linked to the use of cement in hip replacement.

BCIS has also been reported in patients undergoing spinalsurgery. As early as 2002, the FDA sent a warningabout a bone cement that was being used to treat spinal fractures and had beenlinked to serious complications, including blood clots in the lungs, cardiacfailure, and death.

In 2011 the government filed charges against a companycalled Synthes, a manufacturer of bone cement. The company had been testing acement that had not been approved by the FDA for use in spinal surgeries. Fivepatients who received the cement had died during surgery after the company ignoredreports that the cement could have fatal consequences. Because the company hadnot been conducting a clinical trial, patients weren’t advised of the risks andgiven a chance to decide if they wanted to receive the bone cement. FourSynthes executives were also charged, pled guilty and sentenced to time injail.

Pelvic Mesh

Pelvic mesh is a relatively recent product that wasinitially marketed in the 1990s to treat stress urinary incontinence in women.After the success of that product, it started being used for pelvic organprolapse. However, the use of the mesh for pelvic organ prolapse has beenassociated with complicationsincluding pain, infection, bleeding, mesh erosion, urinary problems, andperforation of organs, and has prompted tens of thousands of lawsuits.

The FDA received over 10,000 reports of seriousinjuries from pelvic (transvaginal) mesh that occurred from January 2008 toOctober 2018, including 77 deaths. Previously, in 2011, the FDA had issued awarning, and in 2016 they classified it as a high-risk device.

Earlier this year, a woman was awarded $41million in a verdict against one of the manufacturers of pelvic mesh,Johnson & Johnson. Altogether, more than 100,000women are suing manufacturers of pelvic mesh due to the complications they haveexperienced. Some women describe continuous pain due to the plastic of the meshperforating the vaginal wall.

This is another instance of the product being marketed andused without the benefit of long-term study,to the detriment of thousands of women. Transvaginal mesh and is bannedin the UK, Australia and New Zealand. On February 12, 2019, an FDApanel met to discuss the future of transvaginal mesh in the U.S. The paneldecided that rather than pulling the mesh off the market, they would like morelong-term studies.

What to Do If YouNeed a Procedure or Medical Device

If you are faced with needing a medical procedure or device,how can you weigh the risks and benefits? You need to be fully aware of whetherthe device has been studied in clinical trials and has been approved by theFDA. Even if a device has been approved , such as a duodenoscope, you need toknow if there are other issues, such as infection risk, associated with itsuse.

Doing an internet search on the device or procedure may helpanswer questions such as:

  • What is the history of the procedure/device?
  • Has the device been approved by the FDA?
  • What are the risks and benefits?
  • What complications have been reported?
  • Are there ongoing lawsuits associated with thedevice?
  • What are the alternatives?

You should also carefully read the consent document for theprocedure, as it should list the potential risks and complications.

Speak with your healthcare providers also. What is theirexperience with the procedure/device? How many times have they done theprocedure?  What are the most commoncomplications? Before making a decision, you may also want to speak with otherpatients who have had the procedure.

The bottom line is that you should arm yourself with as muchknowledge as you can before undergoing a procedure so you know the risks andbenefits and can make an informed decision.  

Practice Toy Safety Year-Round 

Most parents learn about toy safety during the Holidays, when consumer safety advocates drive home the message that what might seem like a harmless toy could very well put your child in danger. But toys are bought year-round, and parents may forget that toy hazards may be hiding in plain sight. Learning about toy safety and which toys pose a risk to a child could very well prevent an unfortunate accident.

Worst Toys

Each year, the consumer advocate group World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) releases a list of toys that parents should avoid. They evaluate toys for hazards such as potential for strangulation, damage to eyes, choking, and other dangers. Last year’s “Worst Toys” list included a Cabbage Patch doll,  a Marvel Black Panther Slash Claw, and a Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Superstar Blade.

The group points out that the toys on their list aren’t the only ones that may be dangerous, but they represent some of the common hazards. Some of W.A.T.C.H.’s safety tips for parents when buying toys include avoiding anything with small parts, toxic materials, projectiles, or strings. They also caution that sometimes toys also come with unreliable age instructions or insufficient warnings.

Toy Injuries Increase

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that 251,700 children were injured by toys in 2017. Of these, 13 deaths occurred in children younger than 15. Rather than toy injuries decreasing over the years, a 2014 study found that toy-related injuries actually increased by 40 percent between 1990 and 2011.

Toy Safety Tips

What can you do to keep your child safe? Check to see if any of your child’s toys are on the CPSC’s recall list. W.A.T.C.H. cautions against toys sold on the internet that don’t have warnings or age recommendations on the website; toys that have longer than six-inch strings; and toys that need batteries (for children under eight years of age).

Toy safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics include selecting age-appropriate toys that will build developmental skills. They caution about toys that have small pieces, batteries, magnets, and balloons for small children, and digital toys for older kids.

Be vigilant when choosing toys, and remember that toy safetyshould be a priority all year. That popular new toy might not be as harmless asit looks.

Tucson Personal Injury Blog

Tucson Personal Injury is brought to you by Attorney Louis Hollingsworth at Hollingsworth Kelly Law Firm with the goal of bringing you timely information about local and national issues that are relevant to our areas of practice – serious personal injury, auto accidents, wrongful death and medical malpractice.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured, contact Louis at (520) 882-8080 or visit our Contact page to send a confidential communication.

Our posts are provided as a community service and are not intended to serve as legal advice.