J&J Says Low Demand and COVID-19 Reasons for Discontinuing Sales of Baby Powder
Johnson & Johnson announced its decision in May 2020 to permanently stop selling its talc-based baby powder product in the United States and Canada. This was one of 100 products the company said it was discontinuing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. J&J said that it was making this move to allow for greater social distancing in its various distribution centers around the world. However, some see it as an amazing concession after J&J has poured millions into defending talc-based baby powder in numerous lawsuits.
A Century of Selling Baby Powder
Talc-based baby powder has been one of the most popular products for the company and has been on sale for 100 years. J&J has supported the purity of its baby powder despite lawsuits that linked it to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
Removing Talc-Based Product
The company said that it would allow remaining bottles of talc-based baby powder already in stores to be sold until the supply is exhausted. The cornstarch-based baby powder the company makes will continue to be sold. In addition, J&J said that talc-based powder will continue to be sold in other global markets.
Link to Asbestos Contamination
J&J executives were concerned in the 1970s that their talc-based baby powder might be contaminated with asbestos. In 1973, an executive memo within the company warned that it should no longer be assumed that J&Js baby powder was pure, an image the company had banked on for a century. Internal memos reveal plans were proposed to upgrade testing for asbestos in the product or remove talc completely.
Internal Memos Support Lawsuits
Such memos formed the crux of a legal battle that has spawned 19,400 lawsuits as of March 2020, where consumers blamed the product for causing cancer. Overall, demand for J&J baby powder has declined in the United States due to worries about its role in both ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
Early Reports of Asbestos-Ladden Talc-Based Baby Powders
In 1972, a scientist at New York University was asked by the FDA to study talc products to determine contamination with asbestos. He reported that asbestos was present in 50 percent of the talc products provided by Johnson & Johnson. J&J demanded that the report not be released. In response, one official at the FDA said the report would only be issued “over my dead body.” After a scientist with J&J visited his counterpart at NYU, the final report sent to the FDA was drastically changed. It said that most of the samples contained no asbestos and two had inconclusive results.
Mount Sinai Research Proves Asbestos Contamination
In the mid-1970s, a scientist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York was studying asbestos in powders. Although the object of criticism by J&J, he persisted and said that his studies proved that asbestos was present in several commercial baby powders, including that from J&J.
Despite good scientific evidence and proof of contamination of baby powder, the company succeeded in squelching the reports. The J&J talc-based baby powders continued to be used by millions with a false sense of safety. Cancer victims deplore this secrecy and insist that they should have at least been warned of asbestos contamination.
J&J to Continue Defending Its Product in Court
Even though talc-based baby powders are about to disappear from the shelves of U.S. and Canadian stores, the company said it would continue to mount a defense in court. One Philadelphia woman who has survived two instances of ovarian cancer said that the decision will help protect future generations now that the cause of their suffering will no longer be sold. J&J is currently appealing almost all of the verdicts against them.
The company has taken a hit in terms of consumer demand, partly from changing habits and fear of asbestos contamination. Its previous talc supplier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019, and J&J was forced to recall 33,000 bottles of baby powder. The recall was due to findings of asbestos by the FDA. Johnson & Johnson later insisted that the bottle was free of asbestos after multiple examinations.
On March 19, 2020, Johnson & Johnson said baby powder products made up less than 1 percent of its consumer health portfolio. Due to this and the low demand, it was pulling it in North America.
Sacramento Talcum Powder Injury Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento talcum powder injury lawyer. Removing talc-based baby powder from the shelves is a good thing, but it does not erase the harm it has done to thousands of individuals in the past. If you’ve developed ovarian cancer or mesothelioma from its use, call me for free and friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. You can also reach out to me online.
I am a proud member of the following organizations:
Learn more about my practice by using the following links:
Photo Attribution: By Austin Kirk – https://www.flickr.com/photos/aukirk/12795954293/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37785505
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