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South Dakota Jury Ties Talc Powder to Cancer Risk

Sat, 10/05/2013 - 12:38pm
The Associated Press

A federal jury in Sioux Falls has found that a woman's use of Johnson & Johnson products that contained talcum contributed to her ovarian cancer.

The Argus Leader reports (http://argusne.ws/1f85AJI ) that the jury said Friday that Johnson & Johnson should warn consumers of the link between ovarian cancer and the use of talc-based body powder for feminine hygiene.

The lawsuit was filed by Sioux Falls resident Deane Berg, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006. The lawsuit claims the 56-year-old woman used talcum-based products for hygiene purposes for about 30 years, including Shower to Shower body powder.

"This is an absolutely great day for women all over the country," said Greg Eiesland, a lawyer for Berg. "The jury wanted this connection out there in the public. They can't hide this anymore."

Lawyers for Johnson & Johnson declined to comment on the verdict Friday.

The jury did not award Berg damages. The jury also did not agree that Johnson & Johnson's products are defective without a warning label.

Allen Smith, another of Berg's lawyers, said his client never would have used the products in the manner she did if she had seen a warning.

"The first time she heard about the risk was after her diagnosis," Smith said.

Three doctors analyzed Berg's cancer tissue, found talc using a scanning electron microscope and concluded that body powder was the cause.

One of those doctors, Daniel Cramer of Harvard University, has studied the association between talc and cancer for 30 years. He told jurors that talc probably was a contributing factor in 10,000 cases of ovarian cancer each year.

Johnson & Johnson argued throughout the trial that talc is safe, however, and said research showing a link never has been strong enough to warrant a warning.

The company knew about studies showing a risk, their lawyer Cris Palmer said, but chose not to affix a warning label because the association was unproven.

"They made the conscious decision, because they knew their products were safe," Palmer said.

Allen said the verdict is a validation of the idea that the consumer ought to be allowed to decide for themselves.

"Hopefully, this will force Johnson & Johnson to put a warning label on their products," Allen said.

The company can appeal the jury's decision.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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