Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $72 million in damages by a jury in Mississippi to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer last year. Jackie Fox, 62, decided to sue the company after using its talc-based products for decades with no proper warning of a possible linkage between the talc and cancer.
Johnson & Johnson was found guilty of fraud, negligence and conspiracy. The company was quick to respond with a statement saying the decision
goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products.
In the trial, Fox’s attorneys introduced into evidence a September 1997 internal memo from a Johnson & Johnson medical consultant suggesting that “anybody who denies [the] risks” between “hygenic” talc use and ovarian cancer would be publicly perceived in the same light as those who denied a link between smoking cigarettes and cancer: “Denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
Johnson & Johnson is facing around 1,000 court cases in Missouri and 200 in New Jersey over the use of talc in products, according to Reuters. There has been at least 20 studies linking women's use of talc to ovarian cancer according to Salon reports, but the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program decided in 2005 that there was not enough evidence to say that talc causes cancer. In 2006, the World Health Organization classified talc as “potentially carcinogenic to humans” when it’s used on genitals.