For more than a century, Johnson & Johnson’s signature talcum powder sold in a white plastic bottle with the Johnson’s name has served as a beacon of the company’s safe, trusted, wholesome image, which makes the company’s recent decision to discontinue the sale of its Johnson’s Baby Powder even more significant. Earlier this week, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would no longer be selling its talc-based Baby Powder, which has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and other potentially life-threatening injuries. The talc-based powder has been used by women and families worldwide for decades and now thousands of former users across the country are pursuing talcum powder cancer lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. Nearly 20,000 former users to be exact.
In a press release issued on May 19, Johnson & Johnson announced that it had stopped shipping hundreds of items in the United States and Canada in March, in order to “prioritize high-demand products and to allow for appropriate social distancing in manufacturing and distribution facilities during this unprecedented pandemic.” Following this action, the company reportedly decided to permanently discontinue certain products in the U.S. and Canada, among them its signature talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder. Johnson & Johnson claims in the press release that its decision was prompted by decreased demand for talcum powder “due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising.” The nearly 20,000 talcum powder cancer lawsuits currently pending against the company may also have been a deciding factor.
Johnson’s legacy talc-based Baby Powder has been on the market since the 1890’s, when the company discovered that natural talc was helpful in soothing irritated skin and alleviating diaper rash. In a 2007 blog, the company states, “Generations of families have used these products to care for their children, and consumer identification with them has been so strong that, despite the depth and breadth of its product lines, the Company has enjoyed a longstanding reputation as ‘the Baby Company.’” Today, “the Baby Company” faces as many as 19,400 legal claims alleging that Johnson’s talc-based powder products cause cancer, the vast majority of them involving women who developed ovarian cancer after years of using the products for feminine hygiene purposes. Some plaintiffs report having used Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder as part of their feminine hygiene routine for decades, after growing up watching their mothers do the same.
Other claims against Johnson & Johnson allege that the company’s talcum powder causes users to develop mesothelioma, a serious form of cancer that develops in the lungs and other organs. The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos and plaintiffs in the ongoing talcum powder litigation allege that they were exposed to toxic asbestos from contaminated talc in J&J’s talcum powder products. Both talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals that are found close to one another in the earth. As a result, the FDA warns, “There is the potential for contamination of talc with asbestos,” which is a known carcinogen or cancer-causing substance. In fact, in a recent investigation into cosmetic products containing talc, the FDA reported finding nine products that were contaminated with asbestos.
Despite the growing number of talcum powder cancer claims being brought against J&J, the healthcare products company insists that its talc-based products are safe and do not cause cancer. In January, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky testified in court for the first time in the ongoing talcum powder litigation, saying that the company has taken steps to ensure the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder. “I was told by experts in these fields that in fact we were using the most appropriate, most up-to-date methodologies to make sure our talc was safe,” Mr. Gorsky said in a New Jersey courtroom.
Despite these so-called safety precautions, Johnson & Johnson was forced to recall roughly 33,000 bottles of Baby Powder last October, after the FDA found trace amounts of asbestos in a bottle of the powder purchased online. Although, J&J voluntarily recalled the products, the company made it clear that it did not agree with the FDA’s findings, blaming the reported results on test sample contamination, analyst error, or both. Even more alarming than the Baby Powder recall though, a 2018 report published by Reuters indicated that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that some of its talcum powder products contained asbestos and took deliberate steps to keep this information from the public and protect its image.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, mesothelioma or another type of cancer following regular use of Johnson’s talc-based Baby Powder, do not hesitate to seek legal help. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses, which you can pursue by filing a talcum powder cancer claim against Johnson & Johnson. Contact a reputable product liability lawyer today for more information about joining the ongoing talcum powder litigation.