Johnson & Johnson is facing legal action in the UK for the first time over claims that its talcum powder causes cancer.
The move is being led by a law firm that successfully sued the company for 4.1 billion pounds ($4.7 billion) in the United States on behalf of 22 women who developed ovarian cancer.
The health concerns are driven by concerns about exposure to asbestos, which is allegedly part of the powder often used by adults, both on themselves and on newborn babies.
An estimated 41,000 women in the UK have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and a further 2,700 with mesothelioma – a cancer linked to exposure to asbestos.
Based on these numbers, the attorneys believe there may be thousands of victims who can trace their asbestos exposure back to talc from a variety of manufacturers, including Johnson’s Baby Powder.
Johnson & Johnson is facing legal action in the UK for the first time over claims that its talc (pictured) causes cancer
The launch of the US class action is being led by Mark Lanier (pictured), a founder of Lanier, Longstaff, Hedar & Roberts LLP. He recently started a UK law firm with a group of UK lawyers
Why is the claim against Johnson & Johnson?
Where does the cancer link come from?
Historically, most talcum powder included so-called mineral talc. Deposits are often found in the ground alongside asbestos, which – in the past – led to pollution.
White asbestos is a known cancer risk and has long been associated with cancer of the lungs and other organs.
Quality controls were introduced in the 1970s to eliminate contamination, but there are questions about their effectiveness.
What is the evidence from the US?
In October 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detected asbestos in several products, leading to product recalls. Later that month, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) recalled a single batch of Johnson’s Baby Powder.
In April 2020, J&J was named in thousands of lawsuits alleging a link between the company’s talc and cancer diagnoses.
As of July 2022, it had faced nearly 38,000 legal claims and paid about $4 billion in settlements, judgments and defense costs. Trial is ongoing.
What do British experts think?
Cancer Research UK claims that the evidence for a link with any form of cancer is currently weak and that large medical studies would be needed to provide clarity.
It says other factors, such as age, smoking and family history, have a higher association with an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
What measures is the industry taking?
Manufacturers, including J&J, deny any responsibility or connection between their products and cancer. Despite these assurances, they are all in the process of removing mineral talc from their products.
J&J changed the formula of all its products sold in the US and Canada in 2020 to replace mineral talc with corn starch. These new products will be introduced in the UK and the rest of the world next year.
Cancer Research UK has questioned the links to ovarian cancer, stating that there is not enough good evidence to draw a link to talc.
It said: “Some studies have suggested a possible increase in the risk of ovarian cancer in women who use talc on their genitals, but the evidence is not clear.”
“Even if there was an increased risk from talc, it would likely be less than known causes of ovarian cancer, such as age, family history and smoking.”
The launch of the US class action is being led by Mark Lanier, a founder of Lanier, Longstaff, Hedar & Roberts LLP. He recently started a UK law firm with a group of UK lawyers.
It is claimed that the primary ingredient, mineral talc, has been found to contain asbestos.
As a result, a number of manufacturers are removing this ingredient from their products.
Johnson & Johnson withdrew its mineral talc-based products in the US and Canada in 2020 and will stop selling them in the UK and globally next year, switching to a new formula.
Mr Lanier said: “For over 40 years, major manufacturers of talc products have covered up evidence of asbestos in their products. With increasing pressure, these companies are finally ceasing production, but this is long overdue.
“Companies have made many millions from the sale of talc, and we believe there are many more victims, including in the UK, who deserve justice for having their lives cut short by these terrible and incurable cancers, which could so easily have been avoided.”
Tom Longstaff, a lawyer supporting the case, said: “We will show that the use of talcum powder significantly increased a person’s risk of developing cancer, and we already have access to a number of important sources of information showing how talcum powder is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and others company contained asbestos and that the company had known about it for decades.
“This litigation will show that manufacturers essentially prioritized profit over the health of the users of their products, and we seek justice for the injured victims in the UK.”
The lawyers have not yet identified any British women willing to come forward to make a claim.
Given the nature of the claim, it is difficult to predict the exact amount of damages that the claimant may receive.
Compensation will depend on various factors, such as any losses they or their loved ones have suffered, and the severity of the diagnosis.
Despite successful lawsuits in the US, Johnson & Johnson insists its baby powder and talc products are safe. It says they do not contain asbestos.
It said: ‘Our position on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unchanged.
“We firmly stand behind decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world confirming that talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, asbestos-free and cancer-free.”
Despite those assurances, it confirmed it is adopting a new formula, and said its talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder will be phased out around the world next year.
Explaining the decision, it said: “We are continuously evaluating and optimizing our portfolio to best position the business for long-term growth.
“This transition will help simplify our product offerings, deliver sustainable innovation and meet the needs of our consumers, customers and evolving global trends.
“Cornstarch-based Johnson’s Baby Powder is already sold in countries around the world.
“Johnson’s is a global flagship for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health and we remain fully committed to ensuring that Johnson’s products are loved by parents and families for years to come.”
Lanier, Longstaff, Hedar & Roberts LLP will act for plaintiffs on a “no-win, no-fee” basis. More information is available at: mytalcclaim.co.uk.
#Britons #cancer #suing #Johnson #Johnson #claims #talc #blame #landmark #trial