There is nothing that has been as strongly associated with our infancy as Johnson & Johnson baby care products. From the “no more tears” shampoo to the body lotion that came in a soft pink bottle, J&J’s baby products with their promises of tenderness (and their smell, oh their smell) have been an integral part of our childhood memories. A whiff of its iconic mild fragrance can still transport us back to those days. The company, though, has found itself in trouble over the past few years due to its baby talc powder, and will now stop the sale of the product in the United States and Canada.
After being ordered to pay out billions of dollars over lost legal battles that claim that the talc powder causes cancer, the company announced on May 19 that it will be discontinuing its sales in the United States and Canada. This will not affect the sales of this product in other parts of the world though, including regions where they still have a huge market, like India and the UK.
The company denied the allegations that the product is responsible for any health problems and acknowledged that the demand for the powder had declined due to changing consumer habits and “misinformation around the safety of the product” in a statement they put out. “Decades of scientific studies by medical experts around the world support the safety of our product," the statement said. "We will continue to vigorously defend the product, its safety, and the unfounded allegations against it and the company in the courtroom.”
The baby powder’s main ingredient is talc, a mineral known for its softness. Early lawsuits against J&J claim that the traces of asbestos, a feared carcinogen, were present in the talc. The mineral, even in microscopic amounts, is capable of causing cancer. Asbestos contamination can occur when talc is mined, as minerals can be intermingled underground. As reported by The New York Times, internal memos and reports reveal that the company had been concerned for at least 50 years about the possibility of traces of asbestos in its talc.
As of late March, Johnson & Johnson faced almost 20,000 lawsuits related to talc body powders. In 2018, they were ordered to pay out 4.7 billion dollars in damages to 22 women who alleged that J&J’s talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
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