Johnson & Johnson Discontinues Talc-Based Baby Powder
Johnson & Johnson discontinued its talc-based baby powders in the United States and Canada because thousands of lawsuits claiming it was contaminated with asbestos created a sales decline.
The company said it came to a “commercial decision” to stop shipping hundreds of talc-based products in the U.S. and Canada. J&J’s Kathleen Widmer said the company will wind down U.S. and Canada sales over several months. She said retailers will continue to sell existing inventory until it runs out.
J&J will continue to sell its cornstarch-based baby powder. That product has been on the market since 1980. Three quarters of J&J’s U.S. customers use the cornstarch product, according to Widmer. Three quarters of J&J’s non-U.S. customers use the talc-based baby powder and that powder will continue to be distributed outside of the U.S. and Canada, according to Widmer.
J&J baby powder represents less than 1% of the company’s consumer health revenue in the United States. Its sales have declined for years, Widmer said. The company has blamed “misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising” for the decline in sales.
Talc power is used in baby powder because it prevents diaper rash and keeps skin dry. Asbestos can be found in talc mines.
J&J has seen thousands of lawsuits filed against it since 2014. The lawsuits claim the company hid its talc-based baby powder’s cancer risks. Juries have awarded plaintiffs in those cases billions of dollars.
J&J officials have said they have seen a 15% increase in the number of baby powder cancer lawsuits.
J&J said it “remains steadfastly confident in the safety of talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder,” in a statement. “We will continue to vigorously defend the product, its safety, and the unfounded allegations against it and the company in the courtroom.”
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Dr. Anne McTiernan testified before a United States House of Representatives subcommittee in April 2019. She said “increasing the amount of exposure to talcum powder products in the genital area resulted in an increasing risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer.” She explained to the subcommittee how baby powder containing talc can end up in ovaries when it is applied to the perineal area.
A 1982 study associated a 92% increase in ovarian cancer risk with talc being used in the genital area. 1992 and 2011 studies also associated talc application to the genital area with an increased ovarian cancer risk.