U.S/Canada: Johnson & Johnson discontinued its legacy talc-based baby-powder products in the U.S. and Canada after thousands of suits alleging asbestos contamination led to a decline in sales.
The company made the announcement Tuesday. It denied allegations that the powder is responsible for health problems. Demand for talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising, J&J said in a statement. Separate investigations by Reuters and The New York Times in December 2018 revealed documents showing J&J fretted for decades that small amounts of asbestos lurked in its baby powder.
From at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public. Asbestos can occur naturally underground near talc. It becomes harmful when it breaks down and lodges in the lung tissue, possibly leading to diseases including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. In 2018, a St. Louis jury ordered J&J to pay $4.7 billion to 22 women and their families who say asbestos the powder contributed to their ovarian cancer. Last year, a woman in California who says Johnson & Johnson baby powder caused her to develop mesothelioma was awarded $29 million. The company is appealing the decisions.
Stores around the country and in Canada will continue to sell whatever remaining inventory of baby powder remains on their shelves, the company said. Additionally, cornstarch-based Johnson’s Baby Powder will remain available in North America.
Both types of the powder will continue to be sold in other countries around the world “where there there is significantly higher consumer demand for the product.”
J&J is one of a handful of companies working with the National Institutes of Health to develop potential treatment options for the coronavirus pandemic and a vaccine for COVID-19