J&J loses US$110 million verdict over talc cancer-link claim

DETROIT — Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a St Louis jury to pay more than US$110 million (S$154 million) to a Virginia woman who blamed her ovarian cancer on the company’s talcum products.

Imerys Talc America, which provided the talc to J&J, was ordered by the jury to pay about US$100,000. Imerys Talc is a unit of Paris-based Imerys SA.

There are more than 3,000 lawsuits accusing the world’s largest health-care company of ignoring studies linking its baby powder and Shower to Shower talc products to ovarian cancer and failing to warn customers about the risk.

Ms Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman for J&J, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict. Mr Orlando Richmond, an attorney for the company, declined to comment.

J&J lost jury verdicts of US$72 million, US$55 million and US$70 million last year, while winning the first trial in 2017. J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, is appealing the trial losses. A New Jersey state court judge last year threw out two talc cases set for trial, finding inadequate scientific support for the claims. That decision is also on appeal.

In St Louis, Ms Lois Slemp, 62, said she used J&J’s baby powder and Shower to Shower talc products for more than 40 years before her diagnosis with ovarian cancer in 2012. J&J sold its Shower to Shower brand in 2012.


Ms Slemp, whose cancer has since spread to her liver, also claims J&J talc was contaminated with asbestos, a rare allegation in these cases. A company lawyer told jurors that J&J’s products didn’t cause Ms Slemp’s cancer and don’t contain asbestos.

The lawsuit is among more than 1,000 filed in St Louis by women across the US, taking advantage of a Missouri law that allows suits to be brought there by people with no connection to the state.

The company faces trial in another talc claim in St Louis city court next month, brought by the family of a former competitive figure skater who died of ovarian cancer. The trial after that is set for July in Los Angeles.

J&J didn’t warn women of studies linking talc to ovarian cancer to protect the company’s image, Mr Allen Smith, Ms Slemp’s attorney, told jurors.

“What is the corporate image of Johnson & Johnson?” Mr Smith asked. “It’s a mother and baby.’’

Ms Slemp, a retired nurse’s assistant, is undergoing chemotherapy and was too ill to attend the trial.

J&J doesn’t need to warn women about talc because there is no link, Mr Richmond argued. The Food and Drug Administration was asked in 2014 whether a warning label should be put on baby powder, he said.

“They said ‘No.’ The science doesn’t warrant it,” Mr Richmond said. BLOOMBERG



Polluted air may up risk of many cancers

As fine particulate concentrations increased by 10 micrograms per cubic meter, a woman’s risk of dying from breast cancer increased by 80 percent, while a man’s risk of dying from lung cancer increased by 36 percent.

polluted-airFor elderly people in Hong Kong, long term exposure to fine-particle air pollution is tied to an increased risk of dying from many cancers, including breast, liver and pancreatic cancer, in addition to the expected lung cancer risk, according to a new study.

Ultrafine particles can pass into the blood stream and have the potential to impact any part of the body, Thomas told Reuters Health by email.

The researchers began following more than 66,000 people age 65 and older in Hong Kong between 1998 and 2001 and tracked them through 2011. They used satellite data and site monitors to estimate fine particulate matter in the air at the subjects’ homes.

They focused on fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which is produced by motor vehicles, power plants and other industrial combustion, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

After accounting for smoking status, the researchers found that as a subject’s home exposure to fine particles in the air increased, so did the risk of dying from any cancer, including cancer of the upper digestive tract, liver, bile ducts, gall bladder and pancreas.

As fine particulate concentrations increased by 10 micrograms per cubic meter, a woman’s risk of dying from breast cancer increased by 80 percent, while a man’s risk of dying from lung cancer increased by 36 percent, according to a report released by the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

“Biologically there is no reason to suggestion such observations wouldn’t apply to younger people,” Thomas said. “It is important though to remember that cancers are chronic diseases and thus it takes years between the exposure to the particulates to the development of a diagnosable cancer.”

Particulate matter can cause cancer because it often contains toxic chemicals and causes inflammation, among other mechanisms, Cesaroni told Reuters Health by email.

“At an individual level the strongest risk factors for cancer are smoking and diet,” she said. “However, at a population level, given the wide distribution of exposure, even a small increase in risk can result in a large number of cases.”

Pollution also increases the risk of cardiorespiratory disease, Thomas said.

“The risk is not as great as that from smoking tobacco (and quitting greatly improves health of those smoking and those exposed to the second hand smoke) but is clearly present,” he said.

Read more: http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/leisure/2016/05/04/polluted-air-may-up-risk-of-many-cancers/