If you’re one of those parents who liberally doses baby’s bottom with baby powder during a diaper change, you may want to check the brand you’ve been using.
A St. Louis jury just awarded $110.5 million to a Virginia woman who says Johnson’s Baby Powder caused her ovarian cancer. The judgement puts Lois Slemp, 62, into the top slot for the highest judgement of the other cases brought against Johnson & Johnson with respect to talcum powder products.
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This is not the first time the makers of the little white bottles of powder, which have shown up in baby shower baskets for as long as there have been baby showers, have been hit with lawsuits. There are now and have been more than 2,000 state and federal lawsuits over health problems the plaintiffs are connecting to frequent use of talcum powder. So far, judges and juries have awarded at total of $197 million to plaintiffs who made these claims and all of those cases are under appeal. The highest award until now has been at $72 million.
The company’s been sued at least nine times over the issue. The New Jersey-based company won three of those cases, and two others have yet to make their way to trial. But this Missouri case represents the fourth time a jury has sided against the pharmaceutical giant over claims their baby powder causes cancer.
There’s plenty of scientific evidence to back up those juries. Talc, which is the primary ingredient in many baby powders, is actually banned in the European Union because of concerns over its toxic nature. At least 16 different case-control studies have linked perineal use of talc powder to ovarian cancer, although there’s much debate over why.
Research into a connection between talcum powder and various cancers has been going on since the 1970s.
Perineal, in this case, refers to use in the groin area, by the way, which is where moms tend to use it on their babies, because it helps dry things out, thereby preventing diaper rash and diaper chafing.
But it’s not just the reaction to the skin or absorption into the body that has scientists concerned.
Research into a connection between talcum powder and various cancers has been going on since the 1970s. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned since the '80s that baby powders can create breathing issues for infants, because they’re made of a fine dust that can be aspirated. In 25 cases mentioned by one AAP warning, there was a 20-percent mortality rate. (It should be noted, as it was by the AAP doctor in the warning, this represents only “the most severe cases).
So what’s a mom with a fussy baby to do?
If you don’t want to skip a powder completely, there are talc-free options on the market.