On May 19, 2020, the pharmaceutical and medical device company Johnson & Johnson announced that they are discontinuing the production of Johnson’s Baby Powder, a talc-based product, in the United States and Canada. While Johnson & Johnson claims that the discontinuation of their baby powder is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the product’s declining sales, others speculate that this choice may be tied to the nearly 20,000 product liability lawsuits filed against the company.
Lawsuits Related to the Talc-Based Powder
The announcement detailing the discontinuation of the Johnson’s Baby Powder product occurred after the company was required to pay billions of dollars in lawsuit damages. Many of the claims against Johnson & Johnson argue that long-term use of the company’s talc-based products contribute to or cause the development of ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.
“There’s no label or warning on Johnson & Johnson baby powder to inform consumers about the potential dangers of the product,” says Attorney Darryl Kogan for Kogan & DiSalvo, P.A., “In 2018, a jury in Missouri awarded $4.7 billion to over 20 women who claimed the product caused their ovarian cancer.”
Many of the claims against Johnson & Johnson were prompted by recent investigations related to the talc-based product. In 2018, a Reuters special report found that Johnson & Johnson had knowledge that their talc may have contained asbestos, a chemical classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The initial report was later confirmed by a Congressional investigation. This revelation has prompted several responses, including inquiries from the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Details of the Johnson & Johnson Announcement
In an announcement posted on the Johnson & Johnson website, the company claimed that it will discontinue its talc-based powder due to declining demand. Currently, talc-based baby powder consists of less than one percent of the company’s consumer health product sales. Johnson & Johnson stated in their announcement that the decline in demand may have occurred because of changing consumer habits and misinformation about the safety of the talc-based powder. Despite evidence that says otherwise, Johnson & Johnson continues to assert confidence in their product’s safety and stated that they will continue to defend their product in court.
The Future of Talc-Powder and Johnson & Johnson Lawsuits
Many recent lawsuits allege that traces of asbestos, rather than the talc itself, in Johnson & Johnson baby powder may have caused ovarian cancer. In addition to federal inquiries about Johnson & Johnson, several states have also taken action against the company. This includes a lawsuit filed by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas against Johnson & Johnson and Bausch Health Companies for knowingly selling potentially harmful products to consumers across the state.
Despite announcing the discontinuing of talc-based powder in the U.S. and Canada, Johnson & Johnson will continue to sell the product in other countries across the world. Individuals will be able to purchase talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada until the already-existing inventory runs out. After the existing talc-based powder is sold, Johnson & Johnson will only supply cornstarch-based baby powder throughout the country.