Irish women to sue over alleged link between talcum powder and cancer

A Dublin lawyer is representing up to 20 women who claim their use of talcum powder has led to ovarian cancer diagnoses

Irish women to sue over alleged link between talcum powder and cancer

Johnson's baby powder is squeezed from its container 19-4-2010. Image: Matt Rourke AP/Press Association Images

A group of Irish women are planning to sue a multi-national consumer goods manufacturer over an alleged link between talcum powder and cancer.

Johnson & Johnson has lost three landmark trials in the US - with the most recent seeing an award of $70m (€64.1 million) to a Californian woman who said she had been a regular user of the company’s talcum powder until she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years ago.

Lawyers for 62-year-old Deborah Giannecchini said she has an 80% chance of dying in the next two years - despite having undergone extensive treatment.

Johnson & Johnson spokesperson, Carol Goodrich said the verdict will now be appealed.

“We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” she said in a statement.

Highlighting two cases against the company that were dismissed in New Jersey earlier this year, Ms Goodrich claimed there is a, “lack of credible scientific evidence behind the plaintiffs’ allegations.”

“We deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by ovarian cancer,” she said.

The company is facing approximately 1,700 lawsuits in the US over claims it had ignored studies linking its talc products to ovarian cancer - and failed to warn the public about the potential risk.

Two earlier trials saw the company ordered to pay out $72 million (€66 million) and $55 million (€50.4 million) in damages.

Dublin lawyer, Bryan Fox said he is representing up to 20 women - some of whom have already passed away - who claim their use of talcum powder has contributed to their ovarian cancer.

Mr Fox says he will bring the case forward in Ireland depending on the outcome of the appeals in America.

He warned that Irish Statue of Limitation laws regarding personal injury mean those who feel they have been affected by talc products will have to bring proceedings within two years:

The appeals process in the US is unlikely to be finalised within that time and Mr Fox said he plans to issue a “protective writ” on behalf of his clients which would “have the effect of stopping the statue of limitations from running.”

He said the writs will provide his clients with more time to await the outcome of the American litigation.

"We are going to leave the courts in American to determine first and if they make a decision that is favourable to our clients, well then we are in with a shout," he said.

“If they don’t get proceedings out now, their chances of being able to obtain compensation later are greatly diminished:”

In its natural form, some talc is known to contain asbestos, which can cause cancer when inhaled.

However, all talc products used in the home are now asbestos free and according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), studies into asbestos-free talc have had “mixed results, with some showing tumour formation and others not finding any.”

There have been many studies focusing on ovarian cancer in particular - however the ACS said findings have again been “mixed.”  

Cancer Research UK said that while "studies have seen a modest increase in the risk of ovarian cancer in women who use talc on their genitals, the evidence isn’t completely clear.”