Johnson & Johnson could soon face a new talcum powder lawsuit, this time in the Republic of Ireland. According to a report from The Irish Times, an attorney representing some 20 women plans to start proceedings against the consumer products giant next year, though a decision on whether to go forward with a full-fledged lawsuit will depend on the outcome of similar litigation currently underway in the U.S.
Johnson & Johnson faces more than 2,000 lawsuits in U.S. courts, all of which accuse the company of failing to warn consumers that the long-term, genital application of its Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower talc-based powders could contribute to the development of ovarian cancer. Earlier this year, three talcum powder trials convened in Missouri state court ended in decisions for the plaintiffs, including judgments of $72 million, $55 million, and $70 million.
Plaintiffs in the U.S. claim that the regular and repeated application of talcum powder to the female genitals can introduce particle into the vagina, which can eventually make their way to the ovaries. Over time, the accumulating talc can cause the type of inflammation that promotes the growth of cancer cells. The U.S. lawsuits cite numerous studies going back to the 1970s that point to a possible link between talc-based powders and ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs claim that Johnson & Johnson was aware of this evidence, yet decided against warning labels for its products in order to protect sales of its Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower franchises.
According to the Irish Times, ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cancer for women in Ireland, with almost 500 new cases each year. As is the case in the U.S., the disease is associated with a high mortality rate, as it is rarely detected in its early stages.
For its part, Johnson & Johnson maintains that existing science does not support claims that talcum powder plays a role in ovarian cancer. A company spokesperson told the Irish Times that it would continue to vigorously defend itself in court, as “science, research, clinical evidence and decades of studies by medical experts around the world continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc.”