The family of Jackie Fox of Birmingham, Alabama was awarded $72 million by a St. Louis, Missouri court, according to a Feb. 23 Associated Press report. Fox, who died of ovarian cancer last October at age 62, filed suit against the company claiming her daily use of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower powder caused her cancer.
The jury, in a 10-2 vote, found the company guilty of negligence, failure to warn and conspiracy to conceal the risks of its products. The judgement includes $62 million for punitive damages. Johnson & Johnson marketed their powders, which contain talc, as suitable for daily use with the jingle “A sprinkle a day helps keep the odor away.”
According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, talc is a mineral used in cosmetics and personal hygiene products. The International Agency for Research on Cancer lists talc as a possible carcinogen. When products containing talc are used as feminine hygiene products, the mineral can enter the body and reach internal organs. Talcum powder has been found to be toxic to ovarian tissue in laboratory animals.
Included in evidence shown the jury was a 1997 letter addressed to Johnson & Johnson. The writer, a Johnson & Johnson consultant, wrote that claims that talc presents no significant risk to consumers are “outright false.” The Fox trial is the first of more than one thousand claims against Johnson & Johnson by ovarian cancer victims. Johnson & Johnson argued that there is no specific evidence that their product caused Fox’s cancer. The company is expected to appeal the verdict.