Categories: Health

Cancer-stricken Britons sue Johnson & Johnson over claims talc was to blame in landmark lawsuit

Johnson & Johnson is facing legal action in the UK for the first time over claims that talcum powder causes cancer.

The move is being led by a law firm that has successfully sued the company for £4.1 billion ($4.7 billion) in the US on behalf of 22 women who developed ovarian cancer.

The health problems are caused by concerns about exposure to asbestos, which is said to be part of the powder commonly used by adults, both for themselves and newborn babies.

An estimated 41,000 women in the UK have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and another 2,700 with mesothelioma – a cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Based on these numbers, the lawyers believe there may be thousands of victims who could trace their exposure to asbestos to talc from various manufacturers, including Johnson’s Baby Powder.

Johnson & Johnson faces legal action in UK for the first time over claims that talcum powder (pictured) causes cancer

The launch of the American-style group action is led by Mark Lanier (pictured), one of the founders of Lanier, Longstaff, Hedar & Roberts LLP. He recently set up a UK law firm with a group of UK lawyers

Why is the claim against Johnson & Johnson being filed?

Why can talcum powder be dangerous?

Talcum powder is made from finely ground talc, a mineral that forms underground as a clay-like rock.

Talc is often mined in the same place as asbestos, a mineral known to cause lung disease that has long been linked to cancer.

While talc is used for the skin, because of its softness and moisture absorbing properties, asbestos was used for insulation.

Studies dating back to the 1960s suggest that talc products, which are safe in themselves, may be contaminated with asbestos.

What Do Plaintiffs Say Johnson & Johnson Did Wrong?

Johnson & Johnson has been marketing its talcum powder for decades as suitable for the body and groin area.

Over time, there have been several studies showing that there is a risk of asbestos in talc-based products and that it can potentially cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma – a type of cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Johnson & Johnson has been accused of being aware of those risks and direct links, but still selling and marketing the product without adequate warnings to consumers and in some cases concealing the fact that the talc was contaminated with asbestos – according to those making the claim against the company in the UK.

They say that as a result, thousands of people in the UK may have suffered needlessly and been diagnosed with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, or their disease could have been prevented.

Cancer Research UK has questioned the link with ovarian cancer, stating that there is not enough good evidence to make a link to talcum powder.

It said: ‘Some studies have suggested a possible increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who use talc on their genitals, but the evidence is not clear.

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“Even if there were an increased risk from talcum powder, it would probably be less than known causes of ovarian cancer, such as age, family history and smoking.”

The launch of the American-style group action is led by Mark Lanier, one of the founders of Lanier, Longstaff, Hedar & Roberts LLP. He recently set up a British law firm with a group of British lawyers.

The primary ingredient, mineral talc, is claimed to contain asbestos.

As a result, a number of manufacturers are removing this ingredient from their products.

Johnson & Johnson discontinued its mineral talc-based products in the US and Canada in 2020 and will stop selling in the UK and worldwide next year, switching to a new formula.

Mr Lanier said: ‘For over 40 years, major manufacturers of talc products have concealed evidence of asbestos in their products. With pressure mounting, these companies are finally shutting down production, but that was a long time ago.

“Businesses have made many millions selling talc and we think there are many more victims, including in the UK, who deserve justice because their lives have been cut short by these terrible and incurable cancers, which could have been so easily prevented. ‘

Tom Longstaff, a lawyer supporting the case, said: “We will show that using talcum powder significantly increases a person’s risk of developing cancer, and we already have access to some important information sources showing how talcum powder manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and other companies contain asbestos and that the company had known of that fact for decades.

“This lawsuit will show that manufacturers prioritize profit over the health of the users of their products, and we seek justice for the injured victims in the UK.”

The lawyers have not yet identified any British women willing to come forward to file a claim.

Given the nature of the claim, it is difficult to predict the exact damages claimants may receive.

Compensation depends on several factors, such as any losses they or their loved ones have suffered and the severity of the diagnosis.

Despite successful lawsuits in the US, Johnson & Johnson insists that its baby powder and talc products are safe. They say they don’t contain asbestos.

It said: ‘Our stance on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unchanged.

“We stand firmly behind decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world confirming that Johnson’s talc-based baby powder is safe, contains no asbestos and does not cause cancer.”

Despite these reassurances, it confirmed it’s adopting a new formula and says the talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder will be discontinued around the world next year.

It explained the decision, saying: “We are continuously evaluating and optimizing our portfolio to best position the company for long-term growth.

“This transition will help simplify our product offering, deliver sustainable innovation and meet the needs of our consumers, customers and evolving global trends.

“Cornstarch-based Johnson’s Baby Powder is already sold in countries around the world.

“Johnson’s is a global flagship brand of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health and we remain fully committed to ensuring that Johnson’s products are loved by parents and families for years to come.”

Lanier, Longstaff, Hedar & Roberts LLP are acting for plaintiffs on a no-win, no-fee basis. More information is available at:


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