Johnson & Johnson announced Tuesday it would no longer sell its popular talc-based baby powder product in the United States and Canada. The company faces an enormous wave of lawsuits after use of the powder was linked to developing mesothelioma.
The news is the most significant victory yet in the fight against asbestos exposure from talc-based consumer products. The New York Times called this “a huge concession” for Johnson & Johnson, which has promoted the Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder brand for more than a century.
Pressure from activist groups that prioritize the health of Americans led to this monumental event. Organizations like Mesothelioma Guide have persistently highlighted the relationship between Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, asbestos and mesothelioma.
In a press release, Johnson & Johnson cited “changes in consumer habits”, “misinformation around the safety of the product” and “a constant barrage of litigation advertising” as the reasons for the decision.
According to the New York Times, Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is at the forefront of nearly 20,000 lawsuits. Many of these involve mesothelioma victims who were exposed years ago to the powder’s accidental, hidden and most notorious ingredient.
Asbestos and talc are both naturally occurring minerals. While talc is safe on its own, asbestos is deadly. It’s the only known cause of mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that forms near the lungs or in the abdomen.
Asbestos can infiltrate talc-based products because the two minerals populate similar geographical areas. Talc deposits usually include asbestos.
Talc is transformed from a mineral into a powder, called “talcum powder.” It absorbs moisture and reduces friction on skin. However, the neighborly relationship between talc and asbestos can lead to loose, sharp asbestos fibers hidden in talcum powder.
These fibers can be inhaled or swallowed by unsuspecting users of these cosmetic and cleansing products. The asbestos particles can then puncture and get stuck in cell linings within the body. When this occurs, the cells mutate, replicate and grow uncontrollably, and lump together. This is how tumors form.
Talcum powder is also a popular ingredient in makeup items such as eye shadow, lipstick and blush. Use of asbestos-contaminated versions of these products can also cause mesothelioma.
Johnson & Johnson will cease production of its talc-based baby powder immediately. It will continue producing and selling the cornstarch-based version of the product.
The company will continue selling existing inventory through retailers. Once that supply runs out, the talc-based cosmetic will no longer be available in the U.S. and Canada. It will continue to be sold in other markets around the world “where there is a significantly higher consumer demand for the product,” the company stated.
In October, the company recalled 33,000 bottles of the baby powder. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested and found asbestos in sample bottles purchased from an online retailer. Mesothelioma Guide wrote at the time that there was little doubt left about the link between mesothelioma and Johnson & Johnson.
Mesothelioma lawsuits related to Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder have had mixed results. Johnson & Johnson has defended the safety of its product despite scientific research revealing the health hazards.
The company was hit with a massive $4.7 billion verdict in favor of 22 women. In 2019, a mesothelioma victim won $300 million in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. Then, in January, four mesothelioma patients won a colossal $750 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson.
The Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder brand dates back to 1893. Since its inception, the product has been one of the most stable talc-based health and beauty purchases in North America.
“Sold in an iconic white bottle,” the New York Times wrote, “its trademark fragrance is said to be one of the most recognizable in the world.”
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- Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health Announces Discontinuation of Talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in U.S. and Canada. Johnson & Johnson. Retrieved from:
https://www.jnj.com/our-company/johnson-johnson-consumer-health-announces-discontinuation-of-talc-based-johnsons-baby-powder-in-u-s-and-canada. Accessed: 05/19/2020.
- Johnson & Johnson to End Talc-Based Baby Powder Sales in North America. New York Times. Retrieved from:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/19/business/johnson-baby-powder-sales-stopped.html. Accessed: 05/19/2020.
- Jury Orders J&J to Pay $750 Million for Talc Case Punishment. Bloomberg. Retrieved from:
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-02-06/j-j-ordered-to-pay-750-million-in-punitive-damages-over-talc. Accessed: 02/10/2020.
- Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $300 million in talc cancer case. The Hill. Retrieved from:
https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/446381-johnson-johnson-ordered-to-pay-300-million-in-talc-cancer-case. Accessed: 06/03/19.