Campaigners for natural products and natural ingredients are uplifted, albeit maybe only temporarily, as an American court awarded $72 million in compensation to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer last year.
I say ‘albeit maybe only temporarily’, as I fully expect the company involved, Johnson and Johnson, to launch an appeal.
The case in Missouri centred on Alabama woman Jacqueline Fox, 62, who died due to ovarian cancer. Her family argued that the disease was linked to the use of baby talcum powder made by New Jersey-based company. Ms Fox had used the product for decades, the court was told.
The jury’s verdict came late Monday at the end of the three-week trial. The jury supported the view of Jacqueline Fox’s family, which argued that the cosmetics giant was “lying to the public” and “lying to the regulatory agencies” about product safety, said lawyer Jere Beasley.
The jury found the company guilty of fraud, negligence and conspiracy – and awarded $10 million in damages plus $62 million in punitive damages.
Her family argued that the leading multinational company knew of talc risks and failed to warn users.
This is the first time damages have been awarded by a US jury over talcum powder claims.
Researchers are divided on the link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies talc used on the genitals as “possibly carcinogenic” because mineral talc in its natural form does contain cancer-causing asbestos. However as asbestos-free talc has been used in baby powder and other cosmetics since the 1970s.
Charity Ovacome says there is no definitive evidence and that the worst-case scenario is that using talc increases the risk of cancer by a third.
In the past, Johnson and Johnson has been targeted by consumer health groups, objecting to some of the ingredients used in its products. In 2012, yielding to consumer groups’ pressure, the company pledged to eliminate two contentious ingredients 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, from all products by 2015.
In this case, Johnson and Johnson had denied the family’s claim.
A spokeswoman said: “We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers, and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial. We sympathise with the plaintiff’s family but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence.”
She added that the company is considering its next legal options, such as an appeal.