Cancer researcher takes a closer look at baby powder - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Cancer researcher takes a closer look at baby powder

(Source: WOIO) (Source: WOIO)
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    University Hospitals' Cancer Researcher and Oncologist, Dr. Richard Lee says that there is conflicting research right now on whether or not using talcum powder can put women at risk of developing ovarian cancer.  

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    University Hospitals' Cancer Researcher and Oncologist, Dr. Richard Lee says that there is conflicting research right now on whether or not using talcum powder can put women at risk of developing ovarian cancer.   

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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -

Two multi-million dollar judgments against Johnson & Johnson have led many to question the safety of products like baby powder -- something most of us have been using since we were, well, babies. 

But two separate juries found that the talcum powder you find in some of Johnson & Johnson's products was dangerous enough to cause ovarian cancer in both 62-year-old Jacqueline Fox and 57-year-old Gloria Ristesund.

Fox was a loving mother -- a foster parent. You can see she had a big smile and by all accounts an even bigger heart. Her son talks about the pain of losing his mother on his Facebook page -- saying he will forever be her prince. Fox died at the age of 62 after battling ovarian cancer. Not even six months later, Johnson and Johnson was ordered to pay Fox's family $72 million dollars. Fox claimed she'd used Johnson and Johnson's baby powder and other popular products that contained talcum powder for feminine hygiene for 35 years. Her son Marvin Salter appeared on CBS This Morning not long after the verdict was announced.

"My whole fight is not just for her, but for so many other women," Fox told CBS.

Attorney R. Allen Smith was one of the attorneys that represented Fox's family in their case against Johnson and Johnson. He's since won another landmark judgment from another jury against Johnson and Johnson in another talcum powder case. Fifty-seven-year-old Gloria Ristesund also used the company's talcum powder products for feminine hygiene. She too developed ovarian cancer.

Talcum powder was found in both Fox and Ristesund's ovarian tissue.

"We have our expert pathologist at Harvard review that, and he has found talc particles in the ovarian cancer tissue itself," Smith said.

Smith says the jurors in Fox's case were convinced that talcum powder was unsafe and that Johnson and Johnson did nothing to warn consumers.

"The jury sees that the science has been absolutely clear for the past 35 years," Smith said. "In addition, what I think incenses the jury is the internal documents where they acknowledge this hazard for over 20-30 years and acknowledge that the consenting public is not aware of the hazard and almost celebrate that."

Dr. Richard Lee is a Cancer Researcher and Oncologist for University Hospitals. He says until more research is done, consumers should search for alternatives.

"I would be cautious about the use of Talcum Powder products -- especially around the genital areas, as it's been associated with ovarian cancer," Dr. Lee said.

But what about small children and babies?

"I would also recommend caution when you are using this for young children and small babies," Dr. Lee advised.

Dr. Lee says it's best to look for alternatives -- check labels and look for a product that are corn starch based instead talc based.

Johnson and Johnson executives say they stand behind their products. They sent us this video statement from their Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joanne Waldstreicher.

"The safety of talc is based on more than 30 years of data generated by authoritative researchers," Dr. Waldstreicher said. "This research has been reviewed by global regulatory bodies, and none has required a change in labeling to reflect any safety risk from talc powder products."

Attorney Smith, meanwhile, has over 1,200 more cases involving talcum powder filed against Johnson and Johnson in St. Louis alone.

"It's time for them to get a hold of this situation," Smith said. "Put a warning on the product, or phase it out with corn starch and let women make a decision about their health and safety instead of not letting women make an informed decision about themselves and their female children."

Marvin Salter says he will not back down because other women need to know the possible risks of using a product that's been marketed as safe to women and their families for decades.

"And that's why I continue," Salter said. "I continue this fight."

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