Johnson & Johnson baby powder links to cancer

About 12,000 women have sued Johnson & Johnson, mostly claiming the talc used in its baby powder caused them ovarian cancer. In July, a jury awarded a group of 22 women $4.69 billion in damages against J&J. So, what is Talc? It’s a mineral in clay which gets mined from underground deposits, and known to be the softest mineral. It can be found in many cosmetics like lipstick, mascara, face powder, blush, etc. to create a silky feel and absorb moisture. It’s also used in food processing, pharmaceuticals, chewing gum, polished rice, crayons, children’s toys, latex gloves and condoms (until the 1990s), and is the primary ingredient in baby powder.

So what’s Talc got to do with cancer? - As Talc is mined deep underground, so is asbestos, the harmful carcinogen which causes cancer, is also found underground, often contaminating the talc. For asbestos, even trace amounts are considered dangerous, it penetrates deep into your body’s tissue and “can lead to cancer of the lungs, voice box and ovaries, and to mesothelioma, decades later.” Many women use baby powder as a feminine hygiene product, applying it to their bodies and breathing in airborne powder, mothers also applied it to babies to prevent rash, unknowing that it is harmful to the body. The link between asbestos and ovarian cancer was first reported in 1958, and again in 2011, as a cause for cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Reuters reported that J&J have been aware of its asbestos-tainted-talc since 1957 when lab tests were conducted by independent consultants, however, the company never reported this to the FDA and other regulators.

So what’s the key takeaway? - Asbestos has a long latency period, meaning that a diagnosis usually comes many years after initial exposure, could be 20 years or longer for mesothelioma and other cancer diagnosis. Meanwhile, J&J essentially holds a monopoly on the talc powder game, its sales from talc powder beats sales of all its competitors combined, according to Euromonitor International data, bringing in $420 million in revenue in 2017. While writing this story, I checked my bathroom cabinets and realized that I also have a small bottle of J&J baby powder. FML!


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