Eva Echeverria used Johnson & Johnson baby powder up to twice a day for 41 years, her lawyer told the Los Angeles Superior Court during a month-long trial against the company. Then she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007.
The 63-year-old woman and her lawyer, Mark Robinson, argued that her cancer is linked to her use of Johnson & Johnson baby powder. According to USA Today, Robinson also showed in court that paperwork dating back to 1964, which purports to reveal the company was aware that the talc in their product can increase the risk for ovarian cancer in women. This convinced the jury, according to Robinson, and Echeverria was awarded $417 million by a judge on Monday.
"My client's dying," Robinson said after the verdict. "But she feels good today that maybe women in America and maybe even Johnson & Johnson will get the message.''
After a shower, it's not uncommon for women to apply Baby Powder to their genitals to prevent sweating, chafing, and for other personal hygiene needs. But many women don't know that the talc used in the product has been associated with an increased risk for ovarian cancer.
"I trusted Johnson & Johnson. Big mistake," Echeverria said in a taped deposition that was played in court because she was to sick to attend the trial.
The American Cancer Society warns that, while the results for studies linking talc to cancer are mixed, "People concerned about using talcum powder may want to avoid or limit their use of consumer products that contain it." The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, advises that applying talc-based powder to the genital area "is possibly carcinogenic to humans."
Scientists say that talc could cause ovarian cancer when it is applied to the genitals because the particles can move up the genitourinary tract into where the ovaries are located. According to one scientist, Dr. Daniel W. Cramer, up to 10 percent of ovarian cancer diagnoses can be linked to talc use, though many experts still emphasize that epidemiological studies have yielded mixed results.
Over 5500 women having filed similar cases against Johnson & Johnson, alleging the company refuses to acknowledge the talc-containing product is harmful, Courthouse News reports. There have been several successful lawsuits against the company, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in putative damages.
Despite multiple lawsuits and scientific studies that indicate talc-containing products may be linked to an increased risk for ovarian cancer, Johnson & Johnson denies that their product is harmful. On its website, the company claims that talc use "dates all the way back to ancient Egypt" and cites research that affirms its safety.
Robinson's lawyer told USA Today that Echeverria "is now hoping that Johnson & Johnson will start warning women about the risk of using talcum powder," but that doesn't seem likely.
"Ovarian cancer is a devastating diagnosis and we deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by this disease," Carol Goodrich, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman, said in a statement. "We will appeal today's verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson's baby powder."