After decades of lawsuits and consumers claiming the talcum powder caused cancer, Johnson & Johnson has decided to discontinue sales of their staple product.
According to the New York Times, on Tuesday (May 19) Johnson & Johnson announced that they would discontinue sales of their iconic talc-based powder. While the company is allowing retailers to sell existing bottles until they run out, the company did note that their baby powder made with cornstarch will remain available, and the company will continue to sell the talc-based baby powder in other parts of the world.
Johnson & Johnson has often said that faulty testing, shoddy science, and ill-equipped researchers are to blame for findings that its powder was contaminated with asbestos. But in recent years, thousands of consumers — mostly women with ovarian cancer — have said that the company did not warn them of potential risks that the company was discussing internally.
Early lawsuits against the New Jersey-based company claimed the talc itself caused ovarian cancer, though the scientific evidence on that was never conclusive. Plaintiffs’ lawyers later shifted their focus, arguing that traces of asbestos — an indisputable and much-feared carcinogen — were present in talc and capable of causing cancer even in microscopic amounts. Even as it announced the withdrawal of its baby powder, the company said that it “will continue to vigorously defend the product” in court, before adding that decrease in consumer consumption.
As of late March of this year, Johnson & Johnson faced more than 19,400 lawsuits related to talc body powders, many of them involving complicated science. In April, A federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs’, allowing scientific experts to testify with some exceptions, giving a devastating blow to Johnson & Johnson’s plan to exclude the testimony in hopes of shutting down thousands of cases.
Overall, the legal record has been mixed so far. Several juries have decided against Johnson & Johnson, in one case awarding $4.7 billion to 22 women in 2018; but the company has prevailed in other cases and is appealing nearly all of the cases it has lost.