Eva Echeverria, a 63-year-old woman who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson talc products, was awarded $417 million by a Los Angeles jury. This was the first California talcum case against Johnson & Johnson, though it is unlikely to be the last as more than 300 lawsuits are pending in California, and an additional 4,500 throughout the United States.
For decades Johnson & Johnson has successfully sold numerous talcum powder products, including the popular Johnson's Baby Powder. The plaintiff, Echeverria, says she began using the company’s talc products when she was 11 years old and has continued to use them regularly since. In 2007 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Now, near death, she recorded a video to speak to the jury since she was unable to come to court.
In its natural form, talcum contains asbestos, which is extremely dangerous to humans. However, since asbestos was discovered to be hazardous in the 1970’s, talcum powders have been asbestos-free, though that did not remove other dangers. After some women reported developing ovarian cancer, numerous institutions held studies of talcum powder to determine if it was indeed causing cancer. Multiple studies have since confirmed that talcum powder can travel into the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to cause ovarian cancer.
During the trial, a Harvard University study of talc powder conducted in 2000 was brought to the jury’s attention. In this study, 307 of the 78,630 who used talc powder developed ovarian cancer. One of the cancers reported, epithelial ovarian cancer was the same disease Echeverria developed 7 years later. In another study from 1982, nearly 20 years earlier, cited that women who used talc products on their genitals faced a 92% increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
In the case of Eva Echeverria, the jury panel agreed that there was a connection between her development of ovarian cancer and talcum powder use. Echeverria claims that if the company had warned of the potential dangers of daily use, she would have avoided the product altogether.
Echeverria’s lawsuit, and the hundreds of other pending suits claim Johnson & Johnson knowingly endangered women by failing to warn them of the potential cancer risks of regular talc use.
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