Rio Tinto sued over talcum powder cancer link

Rio Tinto is being sued over allegations talcum powder sourced from their mines has caused ovarian cancer.

Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson and Rio's wholly owned US subsidiary Rio Tinto Minerals Inc are named in a suit filed in Louisiana by four women with cancer and the husband of a woman who died.

Fairfax Media reports that court documents state that all five of the women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the years between 2011 and 2015 and had used Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.

The case is the latest in a string of more than 1000 cases brought against Johnson & Johnson over links between its talcum powder products and ovarian cancer but the first to also target Rio Tinto.

Johnson & Johnson has already been ordered to pay out two women who won a total of $172 million in damages in separate cases launched in Missouri with juries finding talc manufactured by the company had led to their terminal cancer.

Rio Tinto Minerals' subsidiary at the time Luzenac America is also named in the case as having mined the "talc at issue" which was used to manufacture Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.

The court documents state that all three companies "failed to inform its customers and end users of its products of a known catastrophic health hazard associated with the use of its products".

"All of the defendants have been aware for nearly forty years of independent scientific studies linking the use of their products to the increased risk of ovarian cancer in women when used in the perineal area," the documents state.

"Luzenac America Inc and Rio Tinto Minerals Inc supply customers with materials safety data sheets for talc."

"These material safety data sheets are supposed to convey adequate health and warning information."

Rio Tinto directed the newspaper's media inquiries to the US, which had not replied by the time of publishing.

A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson told Fairfax Media that "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".