Johnson & Johnson’s Deadly Secret – Asbestos in Their Talcum Powder
Baby powder is soft to the touch, sweet-smelling, and gentle on the skin. It is about the most innocuous product one can imagine occupying drugstore shelves across America for more than a century. Yet thousands of victims of ovarian cancer have filed product liability lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest manufacturer of talc products like baby powder for treating diaper rash, inflammation, chafing, and other skin irritations in infants and adults.
What the Science Says
Scientific tests conducted from the early 1970s through the early 2000s and reported by Reuters revealed that some containers of Johnson & Johnson baby powder contain deadly asbestos fibers, which have been designated a dangerous carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Toxicology Program. The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have also labeled asbestos a potentially deadly toxin.
The use of Johnson & Johnson baby powder regularly for personal hygiene can result in talc particles being absorbed through the vaginal tract. Some women have used Johnson & Johnson baby powder their entire lives, increasing the likelihood that they might develop ovarian cancer.
Johnson & Johnson Defiant
Facing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from more than 14,000 lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson has denied that its baby powder is dangerous. The iconic company aggressively insists its talcum powder has always been asbestos-free. However, on May 19, 2020, Johnson & Johnson abruptly announced that it will no longer sell its talc-based powders anywhere in North America once existing store supplies are depleted.
Why the Change of Heart?
Johnson & Johnson executives claim that declining sales of its talcum powder in the United States and Canada is their primary motivation for discontinuing sales domestically. The company insists that it will continue to sell its talc-based products in other parts of the world. But the December 2018 Reuters article cited company memos, internal reports, and other confidential information revealing that Johnson & Johnson officials knew there were asbestos fibers in their talcum powder products and took purposeful steps to cover up the evidence over several decades.
Feeling the Pressure
In 2018, a Los Angeles County Superior Court awarded $21.7 million to a woman who was diagnosed with the fatal asbestos cancer mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson baby powder for twenty years. And in early 2019, Imerys Talc America, one of the biggest suppliers of talc to Johnson & Johnson, filed for bankruptcy protection as a result of the multibillion-dollar lawsuits it is also facing. In February of 2019, the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission issued subpoenas to Johnson & Johnson seeking to determine if the corporation intentionally misled federal regulators and concealed evidence that asbestos had been contaminating its talcum powder products for many years.
Don’t Use Talc Products
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends against the use of talcum powder. Likewise, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages the use of talc-based baby powder, remarking that “If inhaled, talcum-containing powders can cause severe lung damage and breathing problems in babies.” The AAP does not address the potential risks to the caregivers who are diapering those babies, but it would seem prudent to avoid using talcum powder altogether when diaper cream or products containing cornstarch can be safely used instead.