Johnson & Johnson (J&J) will stop manufacturing and marketing talcum powder to babies worldwide starting next year
The announcement comes more than two years after the health care giant ended sales of the product in the United States.
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J&J is facing tens of thousands of lawsuits from women alleging that talcum powder contained asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
Baby powder is used to prevent diaper rash and for cosmetic uses, including dry shampoo.
Talc is extracted from the ground and found in layers close to asbestos, a substance known to cause cancer.
A 2018 Reuters investigation said J&J had known for decades that asbestos was in its talc products.
The news outlet claims that internal company records, pilot documents and other evidence showed that from at least 1971 through the early 2000s, J&J’s raw talc and by-products tested positive for small amounts of asbestos in some tests. ..
But the company reiterated its position that decades of independent research shows the product is safe. “Our position on the safety of our cosmetic powder has not changed.”
“We stand firmly behind decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world confirming that Johnson’s talc-based talc is safe, asbestos-free and cancer-free,” he said.
“As part of our global portfolio assessment, we have made a commercial decision to move to a cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio,” she said in a statement.
The company added that the baby powder made from cornstarch is already sold in countries around the world.
Photo: Getty Images
Why asbestos poses health risks
Asbestos is a mineral found in nature.
A variety of white asbestos is used in the construction industry in developing countries but is banned in most industrialized countries due to health risks.
Asbestos is heat and fire resistant. In addition, the material is durable and inexpensive, so it can be used in several ways. It can be mixed with cement to make ceilings and floors. It is also used in pipes, roofs, vehicle brakes, and more.
Microscopic parts of asbestos fibers are potentially dangerous when inhaled and can cause respiratory diseases:
- lung cancer, which is more common in people exposed to asbestos;
- mesothelioma, a form of breast cancer that occurs mostly in people exposed to asbestos;
- Asbestosis, a disease that causes shortness of breath and can lead to more serious respiratory problems.
White asbestos, commonly known as chrysotile, is the only form of asbestos in use today. The World Health Organization (WHO) says the difference is also linked to mesothelioma and other types of cancer, but its producers say the substance is safe if handled with care.
Some experts claim that white asbestos poses fewer health risks than blue and brown asbestos, but even companies that sell the material say workers should avoid breathing air with the product.
The substance is produced and used extensively in Brazil, despite some isolated efforts to ban it. Brazil is the third largest producer and exporter of asbestos, which is sold to countries such as Colombia and Mexico. The country is also the fifth largest consumer of the product.
In 2020, J&J said it would stop selling baby powder in the US and Canada because demand has fallen after what it called “misinformation” about the product’s safety amid multiple legal issues.
At the time, the company said it would continue to sell baby powder containing talc in the UK and the rest of the world.
The company is facing lawsuits from consumers and survivors alleging that J&J’s talc products caused cancer due to asbestos contamination.
In response to evidence of asbestos contamination presented in US courts, media reports and lawmakers, the company has repeatedly denied these allegations.
In October, J&J created a subsidiary, LTL Management, and ceded its talc rights to it. Later, LTL filed for bankruptcy, halting pending court proceedings.
In April, a shareholder proposal to end global sales of the product failed.
Johnson’s Baby Powder has been sold for nearly 130 years and has become a hallmark of the company.
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