Solicitor warns of a ‘ticking timebomb’ of talc-related cancer

Talcum powder cancer ‘ticking timebomb’: Solicitor warns middle-aged women at risk of disease due to use of toiletry in their teens

  • Phillip Gower, of Simpson Millar solicitors, has teamed up with a US attorney
  • They have a string of court victories for women with talc-related cancer in the US
  • Mr Gower estimates thousands of British men and women have been affected
  • ‘It’s a massive scandal and is only going to get bigger,’ he told MailOnline 
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A solicitor has warned of a ‘ticking timebomb’ of cancer among middle-aged women due to them using talcum powder as teenagers. 

Phillip Gower fears thousands of British women could have deadly cancer linked to extensive use of talc sold by popular high street brands.

Many victims are unaware that their diagnosis of life-threatening cancers could be linked to ingredients of the commonly used product, he argues.

US victims have already sued talc manufacturers for millions after getting ovarian cancer or asbestos-related mesothelioma, and now UK victims could follow suit. 

Mr Gower, of Simpson Millar solicitors, has teamed up with a US attorney, who has a string of court victories for women with talc-related cancer under his belt.

The news comes after a New Jersey investment banker was awarded $117 million (£88m) in damages in April after developing mesothelioma through asbestos dust in Johnson and Johnson talcum powders.

There have been thousands of lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson and other companies claiming that the talcum powder causes cancer

Mr Gower, who estimates thousands of British men and women have been affected, told MailOnline: ‘It’s a massive scandal and is only going to get bigger. 

‘There is a big problem out there. So far we are just scratching the surface. This is a ticking timebomb.’  

‘We believe many women were unaware that using talcum powder could have been bad for them and some of them are now seriously ill. 

‘Others have unfortunately died and their families only found out about the potential link afterwards.’

Mr Gower, an expert on asbestos related mesothelioma – heavily linked to the use of talc, added: ‘People are rightly worried and concerned. 

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‘It was an incredibly popular product among women just a few decades ago and now unfortunately they and their children are paying the price. 

‘They should have been told about the risks but they were kept in the dark.

Talc: The facts 

Talcum powder is made from talc, a soft mineral found in deposits often located near asbestos deposits.

Studies have shown that there is a risk of cross-contamination during mining.

Exposure to asbestos fibers has been linked to mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. 

But this potentially toxic ingredient was gradually phased out in the 1980s, due to improved mining techniques.

Affected brands linked to cases of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma were used by British women in the sixties and seventies as part of their daily beauty regime. 


Joanne Anderson, 66, who claimed she used the baby powder frequently to keep her hands and feet dry for bowling, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure (pictured with her husband Gary)

Johnson & Johnson was hit in May by yet another multi-million dollar jury verdict in favor of a woman who said asbestos in its talcum baby powder gave her cancer.

Deborah Giannecchini, of Modesto, California was diagnosed with the disease in 2012 and accused the company of ‘negligent conduct’

Joanne Anderson, 66, who claimed she used the baby powder frequently to keep her hands and feet dry for bowling, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Mrs Anderson, who lives in Williams, Oregon, is one of thousands of people with court cases brought against Johnson & Johnson over talc powder.

A Los Angeles court awarded $4 million (£3m) in punitive damages to Anderson and her husband after getting $21.7 million (£16m) in compensatory damages.

And in October 2016, a jury awarded a woman $70 million (£53m) in damages against Johnson & Johnson after the woman claimed talcum powder caused her ovarian cancer.

Deborah Giannecchini, of Modesto, California was diagnosed with the disease in 2012 and accused the company of ‘negligent conduct’ in making and and marketing the baby powder.

The lawsuit claimed Mrs Giannecchini contracted the disease after using baby powder in an intimate area.

Successful legal action 

To date, brands that have been subject to successful legal action in the US include the market leader Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder.

Old Spice, Desert Flower and Friendship Garden have also had to pay out. Other major brands from the era are also believed to have sold contaminated talcs and have court cases pending. 

US-based attorney Brendan Tully of Phillips Paolicelli attorneys has now teamed up with Mr Gower to help British victims and their families.

He was the first attorney to successfully highlight the cancer link in New York State and win a case against a talcum powder company for asbestos related cancer.

Mr Tully won his 76-year-old client Joan Robusto – who died of mesothelioma $7 million (£5.4m) in compensation from talc supplier Whitaker Clark and Daniels.

The firm’s powder product went into brands such as Old Spice, Desert Flower and Friendship Garden.  

Mr Tully has also won a string of out of court settlements in the US for numerous other women and is now planning similar actions for UK victims. 


Johnson & Johnson is currently facing 6,610 talc-related lawsuits.

The majority of the cases are based on claims that the company failed to warn women about the risk of developing ovarian cancer by using its products for feminine hygiene.

In the past two years Johnson & Johnson has been found liable in at least seven lawsuits related to its talcum powder products.

In August, an Alabama woman who claimed the products gave her ovarian cancer was awarded $72 million (£54m).

In a similar case in November a California woman was awarded $417 million (£314m) but a judge later reversed the ruling in favor of Johnson & Johnson.

In five trials in Missouri, juries found the company liable four times and awarded the plaintiffs a total of $307 million (£231m).

Johnson & Johnson is seeking to reverse those verdicts.

A ‘worldwide problem’ 

He said: ‘These women deserve justice. They have been using these products unaware of the potential risks. 

‘Many of these products were shipped to the UK from America with no health warnings on their packaging.’ 

‘This is a worldwide problem that affected people across the globe.’ 

The majority of the cases have involved women contracting ovarian cancer and have been against market leader Johnson and Johnson for their baby powder. But a string of others have been for asbestos related cancer.

More than 7,000 women in the UK were diagnosed with cancer of the ovaries in 2015. Cases are highest in women aged between 75 and 79. 

Can talc really cause cancer? 

The American Cancer Society warns it isn’t clear whether talc products increase a person’s cancer risk.

But the International Agency for Research on Cancer – a branch of the World Health Organization – classifies talc that contains asbestos as ‘carcinogenic to humans’.

And Professor Paul Pharoah, an epidemiologist at Cambridge University, doesn’t see a strong link between talc and ovarian cancer.

He said; ‘The evidence of a causal association between genital talc use and ovarian cancer risk is weak.’

But studies have repeatedly shown the opposite in recent years.

Harvard University researchers found in 2008 that women who used talcum powders every day were 40 per cent more likely develop ovarian cancer.

They studied 3,000 women and found using talc once a week raised their risk of cancer by 36 per cent, rising to 41 per cent for those using it every day.

Dr Maggie Gates, who led the study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, urged women to stop using talc until further research is complete.

Dr Daniel Cramer, an epidemiologist at Harvard University and consultant for one of the trials against Johnson & Johnson, has found similar links.

Since 1982, he has published a number of studies on the potential links between talc and ovarian cancer. They show some talcum powders raise the risk by 30 per cent.


Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the lining that covers the outer surface of some of the body’s organs. It’s usually linked to asbestos exposure.

It mainly affects the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma), although it can also affect the lining of the tummy (peritoneal mesothelioma), heart or testicles.

More than 2,600 people are diagnosed with the condition each year in the UK. Most cases are diagnosed in people aged 60-80 and men are affected more commonly than women.

Unfortunately it’s rarely possible to cure mesothelioma, although treatment can help control the symptoms.

The symptoms of mesothelioma tend to develop gradually over time. They typically don’t appear until several decades after exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos, a group of minerals made of microscopic fibres that used to be widely used in construction.

These tiny fibres can easily get in the lungs, where they get stuck, damaging the lungs over time. It usually takes a while for this to cause any obvious problems, with mesothelioma typically developing more than 20 years after exposure to asbestos.

The use of asbestos was completely banned in 1999, so the risk of exposure is much lower nowadays. However, materials containing asbestos are still found in many older buildings.

Source: NHS Choices 

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