The first witness in a Missouri trial resulting in a 55 million dollar verdict against Johnson & Johnson was David Steimberg, a consultant and expert in the business practices of cosmetics companies. Mr. Steinberg advises cosmetics companies how to abide by government regulations in countries throughout the world. During his testimony Mr. Steinberg explained the way certain aspects of the cosmetics industry work.
Almost all western countries regulate ingredients used in cosmetics, however, there are fundamental differences in the ways countries regulate. In Europe, for instance, there is a list of approved ingredients that can be used in cosmetics. If the ingredient is not on the list, the product cannot be sold. In the US, manufacturers and sellers of cosmetics can use any ingredient unless it is unsafe for the purpose it is being used.
The product at issue in the Johnson & Johnson baby powder line of cases is talc. Talc is a mineral which is mined all over the world. It is the softest mineral known to mankind. In the cosmetics industry talc is used in powders, creams, lotions, soaps. It is also used in foods and drugs. Talc is recognized as being safe except for genital use and inhalation.
The FDA does not require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients used in cosmetics. Federal law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with the FDA. The FDA advises manufacturers to use whatever testing is necessary to ensure the safety of their products and ingredients.
Recalls of cosmetics are voluntary. In other words, the FDA does not have the power to force a company to recall a cosmetic product. The cosmetics industry consistently opposes attempts to regulate its ingredients on a federal level.
The Code of Federal Regulations does require that a cosmetic product shall bear a warning statement whenever necessary or appropriate to prevent a health hazard that may be associated with the product. It is up to the company to make sure that it is selling a safe product and that the product has proper use limitations so it is not used in an unsafe way.
Mr. Steinberg’s testimony can be summarized as follows: Important scientific studies show that genital use of talc causes ovarian cancer. A reasonable company that makes and distributes a product made of talc, at least in part for genital use, should warn of the risk of ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson has known of the studies regarding genital use of talc and ovarian cancer going back decades. Yet, even as of today, it does not warn its customers of the risk.
Lawsuits continue to be filed on behalf of women who have used Johnson & Johnson’s talc based powders (including Johnson’s Baby Powder) and developed ovarian cancer.
If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after long term use of J&J’s talc based powder including Johnson’s Baby Powder, please contact the attorneys at Paglialunga and Harris, PS.