After producing baby powder since 1894, Johnson & Johnson will discontinue talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada. Years of charges their baby powder contained traces of asbestos brought lawsuits and public distrust. J&J suffered a loss in market value along with lessening sales. In 1980, J&J began selling a cornstarch version of the powder in response to the criticism. They will continue to market that product.
The connection between asbestos and talc
Talc is a mineral mined underground, as is asbestos. They are often found in close proximity to each other. The problem occurs because they can be mingled in the mining process.
Why are there lawsuits?
A congressional investigation uncovered internal documents showing Johnson & Johnson knew for over 50 years their baby powder contained asbestos. This knowledge was not passed on to consumers. Juries in many cases found Johnson & Johnson guilty, awarding large amounts to the plaintiffs. Testing found asbestos in many of the samples. However, Johnson & Johnson testified their testing did not find any trace in the same samples.
Though the product was marketed toward babies, most baby powder was purchased for adult women. As of this March, Johnson & Johnson had 19,400 lawsuits pending which involved the talc baby powder.
J&J decision to discontinue talc-based baby powder
Even as they announced the discontinuation, J&J stood by their assertion that there is no asbestos in their talc. They cite lessening sales caused by misinformation and litigation advertising. It appears they determined the best course for the brand was to remove this baby powder from their lineup of products.
In a statement, J&J said it “remains steadfastly confident in the safety of talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder.”
Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Association, published this remark, “Americans should be able to trust they are safe from asbestos. Johnson & Johnson spent decades misleading the public to think their often asbestos-contaminate baby powder was safe when they knew it was not. Today’s announcement that they will stop selling this potentially deadly product is a victory for public health. A small and influential group of chemical companies in America still rely on asbestos and have stood in the way of a national ban of this deadly substance. We can’t wait for them to follow J&J and see the error of their ways. Congress must pass the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act (ARBAN) and ban asbestos once and for all.”