A jury awarded a California woman $417 million when she developed ovarian cancer after almost a lifetime of using Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, per CNN. The award includes $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages.
It’s a stunning award not because of the large dollar amount, but because many people have no idea that there may be a link between talcum powder and cancer. It’s important to note that because talcum powder is considered a cosmetic, it’s not required to carry a label warning people about possible side effects the same way that a drug does. But that reasoning didn’t fly with the jury in California, nor in four other similar cases that found Johnson & Johnson liable for failing to warn customers about the possible carcinogenic side effects of their baby powder.
That link, though, is still the subject of a lot of debate among the scientific community. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, classifies the genital use of talc-based body powder as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” as CNN reports. However, the American Cancer Society says that when it comes to studies linking talc to increased cancer risks, “findings have been mixed,” with “some studies reporting a slightly increased risk and some reporting no increase” while “many case-control studies have found a small increase in risk.” So while the verdict may be in on the case in California, it’s still out on talc, scientifically speaking.
That’s what Johnson & Johnson plans to argue when they appeal the jury verdict, according to a statement from the company:
“We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder. In April, the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query Editorial Board wrote, ‘The weight of evidence does not support an association between perineal talc exposure and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.’ We are preparing for additional trials in the US and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”