A group of 76 plaintiffs have filed suit against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc America, a talc mining company, alleging that their use of J&J talcum power products — including Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower bath powder — led to their contracting ovarian cancer.

According to the suit, the women allege that the companies failed to warn consumers about the link between the use of talcum powder in the genital area and ovarian cancer. The suit cites studies that go back as far as 1971 that showed a potential link between talc and an increased ovarian cancer risk.

The suit claims that there have been 22 epidemiologic studies focusing on the link between talc and ovarian cancer and that nearly all the studies found an increase in the occurrence of ovarian cancer in women who used talcum powder.

The plaintiffs also claim that J&J knew or should have known about the risk of talc use for women, noting that a 1994 Cancer Prevention Coalition letter to J&J urged the company to discontinue the use of talc and use corn starch as a substitute to help reduce the risk of cancer. In addition, the claim notes that the studies linking talc to ovarian cancer prompted the FDA to ask condom makers to stop using talc in 1996.

The suit alleges that the defendants not only downplayed the risk of ovarian cancer, but also participated in an organization called the Talc Interested Party Task Force, which was formed by the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association to defend the use of talc in products and prevent its regulation. The plaintiffs allege that this task force hired scientists to conduct biased research to place talc in a more favorable light to consumers and regulators, which led to confusion among the public about the safety of talc.

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