In April, a New Jersey state court jury ruled that Johnson & Johnson and talc supplier Imerys SA had to pay $80 million in punitive damages (in addition to the $37 million in compensatory damages they were ordered to pay) to Stephen Lanzo III who developed mesothelioma after using asbestos-contaminated talcum powder. Lanzo, a retired banker, says he used Shower to Shower and Baby Powder products from 1972 to 2003.
“It was the first trial loss for J&J over allegations that its talc-based products contain deadly asbestos. Last year, a Los Angeles Superior Court ruled in favor of the consumer goods and pharmaceutical giant in the first asbestos-related talcum powder case against the company.
Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $55 million in punitive damages, while Imerys is responsible for the other $25 million. In the compensatory damages verdict, J&J was found 70 percent liable ($25.9 million), with Imerys on the hook for the other 30 percent, or $11.1 million.”1
J & J Continue to Deny Fault
Johnson & Johnson, however, deny that their talc-based products have ever contained asbestos and during the trial argued that they had “conducted extensive testing to make sure its products were asbestos-free.” And lawyers for J&J suggested that Lanzo’s cancer could have been due to exposure to asbestos from old pipes in the basement of his childhood home.
There are currently no federal regulations requiring cosmetic-grade talc products to be asbestos-free. (Talcum powder is made from talc, a naturally occurring mineral that can form alongside asbestos.2)
Imerys spokeswoman Gwen Myers issued the following statement.
“Our hearts go out to those affected by all forms of cancer. We are disappointed by the jury’s decision, but we remain confident that talc did not cause Mr. Lanzo’s cancer. The evidence was clear that his asbestos exposure came from a different source such as the asbestos found in his childhood home or schools, and the jury’s decision is inconsistent with a recently published study of workers who mined and milled talc all day over the course of more than 50 years that did not find a single case of mesothelioma.”3
Imerys intends to appeal the decision and continues to stand by the safety of their product.
J&J Still Facing Thousands of Ovarian Cancer Cases
While Lanzo’s case was only the second asbestos-related talcum powder case to go to trial nationally, Johnson & Johnson are currently facing more than 6,600 talc-related lawsuits with most linked to women who developed ovarian cancer after using their talc-based products:
- Jury awards $417M to a single plaintiff in lawsuit linking Johnson & Johnson talcum powder to the woman’s ovarian cancer
The scientific community remains divided on this issue because while some studies show the use of talc in the genital area increases the risk of ovarian cancer, others don’t. However, if you are a woman and you are reading this you should know that for the health of your vagina, don’t use talc-products. No, I’m not a doctor but I know enough to know that you don’t need it and it’s not worth the risk.