The talcum powder cancer lawsuit has been in the news for years. While several suits have settled in favor of consumers, tens of thousands of cases are still outstanding. Johnson & Johnson and its former subsidiary, Kenvue, are accused of selling talc-based baby powder tainted with asbestos for over five decades. This underscores the importance of consumer awareness and safety in the face of such potential risks. 

The trial has confused the link between talc powder and cancer, even products made by different manufacturers. 

Talc Powder, Cancer, and Johnson & Johnson: How We Got Here

J&J and Kenvue, a former subsidiary spun off by its parent company in 2023, face over 50,000 lawsuits over its talc-based baby powder. The plaintiffs claim J&J knew its product was tainted with asbestos as far back as the 1970s, but did nothing to address the issues. The problem came to a had in 2019 when the Food and Drug Administration forced a major recall after testing brought the asbestos problem to light. 

J&J officially ended the sale of its talc-based products in 2023 but claimed its switch to cornstarch-based baby powder was driven by falling sales and not because it was dangerous. The company maintains that the product was safe and did not contribute to cancer or any other illness alleged by the victims. 

In late 2023 and 2024, dozens of cases came to a head. After failing to file for bankruptcy (twice) to avoid paying damages, J&J agreed to pay over $700 million to plaintiffs in 42 states and the District of Columbia in January 2024. Other states have separate consumer protection cases still pending, and the company faces 53,000 additional lawsuits alleging the baby powder caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. 

Does Talc Powder Cause Cancer?

There is little evidence that talc, a naturally occurring mineral, causes cancer.  Some studies have shown slight increases in uterine cancer in menopausal women, but additional studies did not find the same result. It’s important to note that the J&J lawsuits focus specifically on talc powder with asbestos, a known carcinogen. Prolonged daily use of asbestos-based talc powder may have increased the risk of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, as alleged by tens of thousands of women in the US.

Should I Stop Using Baby Powder?

There is very little evidence that cornstarch-based talcum powders pose a cancer risk. If you are concerned about exposure, avoid using talc powder on infants and children. Women should avoid using the powder in sensitive areas to mitigate the risk. Most experts believe more research is needed. 

Related: Do Microwaves Cause Cancer?

Consumer Protection Is Cancer Prevention

While painfully slow, litigation has proven instrumental in forcing J&J to remove asbestos-based baby powder from the US and global markets. Similar efforts addressing Roundup and PFAS have raised public awareness and forced manufacturers to clean up their act. Awareness and advocacy matter; Less Cancer is dedicated to putting prevention first in the fight against cancer.