It can be found in most American households; it is a staple in infant care, but few consumers are aware that there might be a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

Earlier this year, two class-action lawsuits were filed against Johnson & Johnson by women who claim they used talcum powder and contracted ovarian cancer.  The plaintiffs say they received no warning of potential risks and applied the product to their genital area repeatedly over the years as a means to stay dry and comfortable. In addition, some women’s reproductive organs were reportedly exposed to the substance by powder-coated condoms or diaphragms.

DECADE-OLD DEBATE

Talc—a mineral primarily consisting of magnesium, silicone, and oxygen—has long been suspected of harboring certain risks. In the past, some forms of the substance contained asbestos, and although today’s consumer version of the product is asbestos-free, debate continues to surround the use of talc in feminine hygiene products. Studies have shown that as women apply the substance to undergarments or skin, particles may travel to the reproductive organs and linger there indefinitely, possibly causing inflammation and carcinoma.

Research on talcum powder and ovarian cancer is somewhat controversial, with conflicting studies either substantiating or negating a connection between the consumer products and resulting illness. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies the feminine hygiene use of the substance as potentially carcinogenic. In addition, data published in the magazine, Cancer Prevention Research, suggests that regular application of the product in the genital area can increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by more than 40 percent. A 2010 Harvard study also found the substance to be a carcinogen in humans.

NO WARNING

Despite the possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, manufacturers have failed to issue warnings to consumers and, in some cases, even promoted the substance as a feminine hygiene product. As a result, many women unknowingly placed themselves at increased risk for ovarian cancer.

Women who believe they may have suffered injury caused by talcum powder may consider retaining the services of a product liability attorney. An experienced lawyer may be able to secure financial compensation for the victim in the form of a settlement or award by the court. Recovered damages may include medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of quality of life and loss of consortium. Victims do not have to take on pharmaceutical companies and large manufacturers on their own—an attorney can help.