Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has announced that it will discontinue selling its talc-based baby powder products globally in 2023. The consumer product and pharmaceutical giant also said that the talc in JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder will be replaced with cornstarch.
The announcement, made August 11, comes as J&J faces over 40,000 lawsuits in the U.S. over its talc-based powders. Plaintiffs who used J&J talc baby powder over the course of several years allege that it was contaminated with the carcinogenic mineral asbestos, and that they developed either ovarian cancer from applying the powder in the genital area, or mesothelioma from inadvertently inhaling asbestos-tainted talc particles.
In May 2020, J&J discontinued its talc-based powders in the U.S. and Canada but continued to sell JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder containing talc in other countries.
“After decades of selling talc-based products the company knew could cause deadly cancers to unsuspecting women and men around the world, J&J has finally done the right thing,” Leigh O’Dell, a lawyer for former talc users, said on Thursday via Bloomberg News. “They stopped sales in North America more than two years ago. The delay in taking this step is inexcusable.”
J&J has paid $3.5 billion to resolve talc litigation, including a 2018 jury verdict in Missouri that awarded 20 women $2.5 billion for their ovarian cancer. That decision has withstood appeal to the supreme court for the state of Missouri and was denied for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, J&J recently created a subunit, LTL Management, that was set up to absorb the parent company’s talc liabilities. LTL Management subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This logistical maneuver, dubbed “the Texas Two-Step,” has been heavily criticized by talc plaintiffs and consumer protection watchdog groups.
Should placing LTL Management under Chapter 11 not come to fruition, Bloomberg reported that J&J will spin off its consumer health product division into a stand-alone operation.