Johnson & Johnson (J&J) will completely stop selling talc-containing baby powder by 2023, the company said Thursday. Two years earlier, according to Reuters, the company discontinued sales of the product in the United States and Canada “due to misinformation” and the many lawsuits that resulted.
About 38,000 lawsuits have been filed against the company by consumers and their next of kin. They argue that J&J’s talc products have caused cancer because they contain the carcinogenic asbestos.
J&J maintains that its talc is safe and asbestos-free, which has been proven by decades of scientific research and regulatory approval of the product. The company is switching to baby powder made from cornstarch.
New subsidiary goes bankrupt
In October 2021, J&J divested its subsidiary LTL Management. After the pending lawsuits were transferred to the new company, it was declared bankrupt. The lawsuits were then adjourned.
Before the bankruptcy filing, the company faced costs of $3.5 billion in judgments and settlements. In one case, more than $2 billion was awarded to 22 women who developed ovarian cancer after using talcum-containing baby powder.
A 2018 Reuters study found that J&J had known for decades that asbestos, a carcinogen, was present in its talc products.
At least from 1971 through the turn of the new millennium, J&J’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, according to company records, court witness statements and other evidence.
In response to evidence of asbestos contamination in the media, in court and on Capitol Hill, J&J has repeatedly stated that its talc products are safe and do not cause cancer.
Research into asbestos in the Netherlands
In 2018, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) saw no reason to investigate baby powder from Johnson & Johnson. That year, the regulator checked 296 cosmetic products for the presence of asbestos, including ‘body powders’ for babies. Only in a blusher and eyeshadow were traces of asbestos fibers found. Its health risk was estimated as “limited”.