A jury in Missouri has awarded $72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer. The woman had dusted her crotch with talc from Johnson & Johnson for much of life, just like millons of women do in the US, Canada and the UK.
It didn’t help Johnson & Johnson’s case that one of their medical consultants informed them in 1997 that “Anybody who denies the risk of using hygienic talc and ovarian cancer will be publicly perceived in the same light as those who denied a link between smoking cigarettes and cancer; denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
Then there was the esteemed gynecologist from Harvard who stated that powdering female genitals with talc could be a contributing factor in 10,000 cases of ovarian cancer each year. Oops!
Powder giant Johnson & Johnson disagreed, as has much of the media who keeps repeating the tired statement that the cancer-causing culprit in talc was asbestos, which has been filtered out of talc since the 1970s. They forget to mention that silica, which can be found in some forms of talc, is listed as a cancer causing agent. They also seem to gloss over the fact that the jury only needed to deliberate for five hours before finding Johnson & Johnson guilty.
Why hasn’t Johnson & Johnson warned women about the possible dangers of using talc on their crotches? Why would they, given their recent history of being fined billions of dollars for misrepresenting their drug Risperdal, and for their recalls of Rolaids, Mylanta, Tylenol, Benadryl, Acuvue contac lenses, failing hip replacements, and losing or destroying thousands of key documents related to their defective vaginal mesh products.
How dangerous is it for a woman to directly powder her genitals, or powder her pads with talc, or to use talc-containing sprays? Some studies say there is a link between talc and ovarian cancer, others aren’t so sure. As for relative risks, using talc on female genitals is not nearly as dangerous as smoking a pack of cigaretts a day, and maybe not even as dangerous as drinking the water in Flynt Michigan.
So if you use talc on your genitals, it’s unlikely you’ll be joining the thousand or so women with ovarian cancer who have filed lawsuits against Johnson and Johnson—or that your family will be joining the families of these women after they died.
This leaves us with the question of why would a woman feel she needs to powder her genitals at all, and are there safer alternatives?
In China, which is the world’s leading producer of talc, only 2.2% of women dust their crotches with talc. In the US, Canada, and the UK, almost 50% of women use talc on their genitals. For starters, Chinese women haven’t been bombarded with ads like these for the past 100 years: