Rio Tinto, together with healthcare company Johnson & Johnson, is being sued in the United States over claims talcum powder from their mines led to five women developing ovarian cancer.
The cases naming both Johnson & Johnson and Rio’s subsidiary Rio Tinto Minerals, were filed in Louisiana by four cancer sufferer’s and the husband of one woman who died, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
The five women had all been diagnosed with ovarian cancer between 2011 and 2015 and, in court documents gained by Fairfax Media, had each used Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products to “dust her perineum for feminine hygiene purposes”.
This is Rio’s first major case involving talcum powder and, if a connection between the powder and ovarian cancer is determined, could lead to millions compensation payouts.
Rio Tinto was recently ordered to pay a former coal miner $1.272 million in damages and compensation after illegally standing him down.
Following concerns over the link between Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products and ovarian cancer, the company has faced more than 1000 legal actions as a result.
Two women, in separate court cases in Missouri, each won damages claims totalling $172 million, after the juries identified their use of talc led to their ovarian cancer.
At the time, Rio Tinto’s then subsidiary Luzenac America had mined the talc used in the products, with the cases filed against them alleging the companies had “failed to inform” their customers of the health risks associated with using the product.
Rio sold Luzenac in 2011.
A Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman said they would “continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder”.
“Multiple scientific and regulatory reviews have determined that talc is safe for use in cosmetic products and the labelling on Johnson’s Baby Powder is appropriate.”
Australian Mining has contacted Rio Tinto and is awaiting a response.