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Local widowers say baby powder caused their wives’ cancer

Two Tampa area widowers whose wives died of ovarian cancer are suing Johnson & Johnson, joining nearly 5,000 other plaintiffs across the country who blame their illness on the daily use of the pharmaceutical company’s talcum powder.

Bryan Isa’s wife, Tami, died Dec. 15, 2015, at the age of 42. George Shenefield’s wife, Jacquelyn, died June 8 at 69.

Both men are being represented by the Ferraro Law Firm, Miami-based attorneys that promote themselves as "Florida Talcum Powder Attorneys."

According to the lawsuits, Shenefield used Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products from 1973 until 2011 and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015. Isa applied the same products from 2003 through 2015 and learned she had ovarian cancer in 2011.

"Historically, the products have been portrayed or otherwise characterized by defendants as a symbol of freshness, cleanliness, and purity," the lawsuits say, noting that the Baby Powder "specifically targets women. The bottle states, ‘For you, use every day to help feel soft, fresh and comfortable.’?"

The lawsuits say Johnson & Johnson sold these products despite knowing talcum powder can cause ovarian cancer, citing two dozen studies that say there is a connection.

Johnson & Johnson’s website says that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not linked the use of talc to ovarian cancer and that other studies failed to find a link.

Both lawsuits also name as co-defendants Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets for selling the products and Virginia-based Imerys Talc America, which mines, processes and sells the mineral talc.

In August, a Los Angeles jury awarded $417 million in damages to a woman who claimed she suffered ovarian cancer due to regular use of Johnson’s Baby Powder. That verdict was overturned by a judge in October.

Neither widower could be reached for comment Thursday, and their attorney did not respond to a Tampa Bay Times inquiry.

Shenefield’s obituary says that she was born in Plant City and that her husband, a military veteran, was her high school sweetheart.

Isa’s LinkedIn account says she was an advertising coordinator at the Tampa Bay Business Journal from 2004 to 2008.

Contact Paul Guzzo at
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Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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