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Nearly $5 billion awarded to talc powder users

Baby powder has long been a staple in U.S. households, but fears over its links to cancer might change that. Johnson & Johnson was recently ordered to pay nearly $5 billion to women who alleged the company’s talc-based product contains asbestos, causing them to develop cancer.

The lawsuit is based on the allegations of 22 women who claim their decades-long use of baby powder and other talc products caused their ovarian cancer. The cancer victims argued that Johnson & Johnson knew their product was contaminated with asbestos, but covered up the evidence since the 1970s. The jury agreed and awarded a verdict of $550 million in compensatory damages and over $4 billion in punitive damages.

Allegations of flawed testing methods

Johnson & Johnson claimed that decades of laboratory testing by independent agencies — including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — found no link to asbestos. Those injured from using talc argued that the testing methods were flawed, and the tests did not properly detect the toxic fibers.

Talc has a close link to asbestos because the two substances often appear in near proximity in nature. It was explained during the trial that the two substances can combine in the mining process, making it difficult to know that all the asbestos has been completely removed. Johnson & Johnson argued that their extensive purification guarantees the purity of its talc.

Are there more verdicts to come?

Johnson & Johnson has vowed to appeal the case. The company is currently facing roughly 9,000 similar cases in the court system, so this development is likely far from over.

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