Johnson & Johnson discontinues talc-based Baby Powder in U.S., Canada

Johnson & Johnson announced it will cease production of its talc-based baby powder products in the U.S. and Canada amid thousands of lawsuits alleging the product contains asbestos and caused cancer. Products will continue to be sold by retailers until supplies run out.

Thousands of women allege Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based baby powder caused their ovarian cancer and thousands others allege they developed mesothelioma by inhaling asbestos-contaminated talc. J&J maintains that its talcum powder is safe despite the allegations, and, despite continually growing concerns worldwide, will continue to sell the product along with its cornstarch-based powder in markets around the world. 

More than 16,000 ovarian cancer claims comprise the national multidistrict litigation. Motley Rice attorneys Daniel Lapinski and Carmen Scott are both members of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the MDL. Dan also serves as co-chair of the Law & Briefing Committee, and Carmen is co-chair of the Bellwether Selection Committee.

“From parents who used baby powder on their babies after changing their diapers to women who used the product to feel and stay fresh to men who used baby powder on their baseball gloves, we believe the impact of using baby powder has had devastating and even deadly impacts on the people who used and inhaled the product,” said Motley Rice attorney for the plaintiffs Daniel Lapinski. “One of the  goals of litigation has always been to investigate and uncover potential harms of asbestos contaminated baby powder and inform consumers. By removing its talc products altogether from U.S. and Canadian markets, I believe J&J is saving countless lives, whether it admits that its product is dangerous or not. As momentous as this is, it’s unfortunately too little too late. J&J continues to deny culpability, sell the product in other countries, and has delayed making things right with the thousands of victims who we believe were already inflicted with deadly diseases due to J&J’s actions. They will have their day in Court.”

Talc & asbestos

Talc, the softest mineral in the world, is a common ingredient found in powders, makeup and other cosmetic products. Since talc is derived from the earth, however, it may be contaminated with trace amounts of deadly asbestos, heavy metals and fibrous talc. Even though the FDA considers it unacceptable for cosmetic grade talc to be contaminated with asbestos, the Agency has no standards in place to require testing, review or approval of these cosmetic products before they are sold to consumers. Talcum powder manufacturers, like J&J, essentially are subject to no safety analysis for these products that are widely marketed to be used directly on people’s bodies.

J&J’s decision to cease production of its talcum powder came roughly six months after Shower to Shower manufacturer Bausch Health Cos. Inc., disclosed in November 2019 that it began phasing out talc in 2018, replacing it with cornstarch in that powder’s formula. Bausch bought Shower to Shower from J&J in 2012 and distributed the last lot of its talc-based Shower to Shower in February 2019.

Johnson & Johnson recalled a single lot of its talc-based baby powder in October 2019 after the FDA announced a sample tested positive for asbestos. The announcement prompted major U.S. retailers Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid and Target to remove all 22-ounce bottles of J&J Baby Powder due to possible asbestos contamination. Prior to the results of the FDA’s test being made public, J&J repeatedly denied accusations that its baby powder products contained toxic asbestos mineral fibers.

Numerous peer reviewed medical studies have also shown that inhalation of talc contaminated with asbestos causes mesothelioma, an invariably fatal cancer of the lining around the lungs, peritoneum or pericardium. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified asbestos, and talc contaminated with asbestos, as an established human carcinogen for decades.           

Talc MDL moves forward

J&J asked a federal judge in recent months to consider barring all plaintiffs’ experts from testifying in upcoming trials, a move that effectively would have ended the MDL. U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson ruled, however, on April 27 that thousands of plaintiffs can move forward with claims against the company, allowing plaintiffs’ experts to testify at trial that studies have shown talc-based products can cause cancer, potentially due to asbestos, fibrous talc or heavy metal contamination. Studies have found that the use of talc-based powders on the genitals and perineal area for personal hygiene may increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

Motley Rice attorneys have fought for decades for victims of harmful women’s medical, health and beauty products, and for victims of asbestos exposure and their loved ones. If you or a loved one developed ovarian cancer after using a talc-based product on the perineal area, you may contact attorneys Daniel Lapinski and Carmen Scott by email or call 1.800.768.4026.

If you or a loved one developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease after being exposed to Johnson & Johnson baby powder, you may contact Motley Rice attorney Nate Finch by email or call 1.800.768.4026.

Read more on the possible link between talc and asbestos on the Motley Rice Law Blog: