A jury in Mississipi has ruled that Johnson & Johnson must pay the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer last year $72 million in damages. Jackie Fox, 62, sued the company after using its talc-based products for decades without being given any warning that there could be a link between talc and cancer.
The jury found Johnson & Johnson guilty of fraud, negligence and conspiracy. The company issued a statement saying the decision "goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products." But the Guardian reports that evidence produced during the trial showed that the company was aware of the risks of talc nearly two decades ago:
In the trial, Fox’s attorneys introduced into evidence a September 1997 internal memo from a Johnson & Johnson medical consultant suggesting that “anybody who denies [the] risks” between “hygenic” talc use and ovarian cancer would be publicly perceived in the same light as those who denied a link between smoking cigarettes and cancer: “Denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
Johnson & Johnson faces around 1,000 court cases in Missouri and 200 in New Jersey over the use of talc in products, according to Reuters. There have been at least 20 studies linking women's use of talc on their genitals and ovarian cancer, Salon reports, but the Department of Health and Human Services' National Toxicology Program decided in 2005 that the evidence was not enough to definitively say that talc causes cancer. In 2006, the World Health Organization classified talc as "potentially carcinogenic to humans" when it's used on genitals.