A California jury awarded $417 million to a woman who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson baby powder for decades, CNN reports.
Eva Echeverria of Los Angeles, California, said she used the product since she was a child, finally stopping in 2016 when she read a news story about another woman who used it and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Echeverria claimed she would have stopped using the product earlier had there been a warning label.
Echeverria isn’t the only one suing for similar reasons. Her case is simply the first among hundreds of others in California waiting to be decided. The results in other states have been mixed; four previous verdicts have come back against Johnson & Johnson, including a verdict that awarded $72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer in 2015. while a New Jersey case was dismissed. State and federal courts are currently processing thousands of similar cases.
What’s wrong with baby powder?
Scientists are unsure. The International Agency for Research on Cancer says the powders are “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” while the American Cancer Society maintains that it is unclear whether the products increase cancer risk.
Still, other talc-based powders on the market carry warning labels mentioning the possible risk of ovarian cancer if used frequently in the female genital area, in order to inform consumers and protect against lawsuits such as Echeverria’s.
So should I use the powder or not?
That’s up to you. But there are other reasons not to use the powder as well, such as the risk that babies can inhale the particles of the powder and suffer lung damage. If you want to avoid the risk altogether, you can use cornstarch-based alternatives that don’t contain talcum, or non-powder ointments that will eliminate the risk to a baby’s lungs.
Johnson & Johnson will appeal this decision, and released a statement expressing sympathy to Echeverria but maintaining no fault based on the lack of definitive scientific evidence linking their products to cancer.
“Ovarian cancer is a devastating diagnosis and we deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by this disease,” Carol Goodrich, a representative for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., said in a statement. “We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder. In April, the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query Editorial Board wrote, ‘The weight of evidence does not support an association between perineal talc exposure and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.’ We are preparing for additional trials in the US and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”