Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $500 million to a 63-year-old woman in the US after a court ruled its talcum 'baby' powder was linked to her cancer.
A Los Angeles court has awarded Eva Echeverria $US417 ($AU525)
million in damages after a jury ruled there was a connection between her
ovarian cancer and talcum powder offered by Johnson & Johnson.
The award is the largest of five similar court cases to date, with reports
suggesting there are 4800 more lawsuits alleging a link between cancer and
Johnson & Johnson's baby powder.
The plaintiff was unable to attend court proceedings on
account of being gravely ill, her attorney told the Los Angeles Times. Her
testimony was pre-recorded and played back on a video cassette before the
Echeverria testified to using Johnson's Baby Powder for more than 50 years – since she was 11 – up until 2016, stopping only after she came across
a news article of a woman who used the product and was also diagnosed with
She said she wouldn't have used the product if it had had a safety
The jury deliberated for two days before ruling Johnson & Johnson was
to pay Echeverria $US70 ($AU88) million in compensatory damages and $US347
($AU437) million in punitive damages, a report from the Los Angeles Times
Johnson & Johnson issued a statement after the ruling: "We will appeal
today's verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the
safety of Johnson's Baby Powder."
Lawyers representing Johnson & Johnson cited studies that concluded
talcum powder was not carcinogenic, including one from the US government's
Food and Drug Administration.
They also referenced a study conducted in 2000, by Harvard University and
Nurse's Health Study, where ovarian cancer was contracted by 307 out of
78,630 participants who used talcum powder. The researchers concluded there
was no link between the two, except for a modest increase in risk for
invasive serous ovarian cancer. This is the type of cancer Echeverria reportedly suffers from.
Parallels between Johnson & Johnson and Big Tobacco were reportedly
made by Echeverria's lawyers, who claimed the company promoted and sold a
product that promoted the growth of cancer.
CHOICE understands Johnson & Johnson's baby powder is widely sold in
The Cancer Council says the results of the court case does not change the science when it comes to talcum
powder and cancers.
"There isn't any new evidence to suggest a link between ovarian cancer and
talcum powder," says Professor Sanchia Aranda, the chief executive of
Cancer Council Australia.
"Based on the current evidence women shouldn't be alarmed or feel they need
to stop using talc powder."
Concerns about talcum powder are related to how talc was mined in the past – it used to contain asbestos, but that's been fully removed from the products
sold today. Results from past studies examining if talcum powder
causes cancer have been inconclusive.
"The International Agency for Research on Cancer looked at all the evidence
and concluded that talcum powder "possibly" causes cancer – this is one of
their lowest ratings," Aranda tells CHOICE.
"It means the evidence is weak and inconsistent, but they haven't ruled out