Johnson & Johnson is permanently discontinuing sales of its talcum-based baby powder in the U.S., a decision that comes against a backdrop of worrying health questions and mounting lawsuits.
The company announced the decision on May 19, 2020, saying existing inventory will continue to be sold. Once it runs out, the product will be gone for good. A cornstarch-based baby powder will continue to be sold in the U.S.
Johnson & Johnson said demand for its talcum-based baby powder has been declining in North America. It blamed “changes in consumer habits” brought on by increasing concerns over the safety of the product – concerns the company decried as “misinformation.”
“Johnson & Johnson remains steadfastly confident in the safety of talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder,” the company said.
The thousands of lawsuits filed across the country tell a different story.
Lawsuits point to ovarian cancer, mesothelioma
Over the past half-decade, there have been thousands of lawsuits alleging Johnson & Johnson’s talcum-based baby powder is linked to serious illness. These suits say the company obscured the cancer risks associated with the product, a claim the company has repeatedly denied.
But some research has shown women who used talcum-based baby powder around their genitals may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Others have suggested there might also be a link to mesothelioma.
These claims gained increased attention in late 2019, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it found small amounts of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson baby powder. This led to a nationwide recall, even as the company disputed the results.
What happens next?
Across the country, juries have awarded millions of dollars to individuals who developed cancer after long-term use of talcum-based baby powder. Despite Johnson & Johnson’s decision to end sales in the U.S., things are far from over.
Many bottles remain out there, on store shelves and in cabinets or closets across the U.S. Sadly, as we move forward, it’s likely more troubling stories will emerge.