Johnson & Johnson Stops Selling Talc-Based Baby Powder

Facing thousands of lawsuits over the presence of asbestos in Johnson's® Baby Powder, J&J is ceasing sales of the popular talc product across North America.

When a manufacturer faces increased scrutiny over the safety of one of its products—and especially when that scrutiny is accompanied by waves of injury lawsuits—the company's decision makers tend to engage in a careful balancing of risk versus profit. In some instances, a tipping point arrives, and the company decides that it's no longer viable to continue selling a product. It's a financial decision, of course. The company's focus is on its bottom line, not on the well-being of consumers.

For Johnson & Johnson, the risk-profit balance related to its popular talc-based Johnson's® Baby Powder tilted for good in May 2020, when the company announced that it would stop selling these products across North America. Retailers will be allowed to sell any remaining stock, and the company's cornstarch-based powders will still be available. Let's look at why this decision was made, and what it means for lawsuits over the safety of Johnson's® Baby Powder.

Talc and Asbestos

Talc is a naturally-occurring mineral that is often found (and mined) alongside asbestos—another natural mineral, but also a known carcinogen with a long history of causing serious health problems like mesothelioma and other forms of cancer.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), since the 1960s studies have revealed a potential link between use of talc-based powders and the development of ovarian cancer, but no conclusive link has been established. The FDA currently categorizes its research on the issue as "ongoing," although in 2019 the agency alerted consumers to the presence of asbestos in a sample of a product lot of Johnson's® Baby Powder, and announced that the company was voluntarily recalling a small amount of the product. Other J&J products (including all other product lots of Johnson's® Baby Powder) remained on the shelves until the company's May 2020 decision.

Court Action Over Asbestos In Talc

In recent years, thousands of product liability lawsuits have alleged a link between talc-based cosmetic products like Johnson's® Baby Powder and the development of ovarian cancer and other serious health problems. (Get details on the current state of lawsuits over the presence of asbestos in talc products.) Now, with Johnson & Johnson's decision to stop selling one of its most popular products, it's safe to expect the number of new lawsuits to increase in the coming weeks and months.

How Will This News Affect Lawsuits Against J&J?

Market withdrawal of Johnson's® Baby Powder will likely help the plaintiff (that's the person filing the lawsuit against J&J) when the time comes to prove:

  • that the product was unreasonably dangerous, and/or
  • that J&J should have done more to warn consumers of health risks associated with its talc products, or to make the products safer.

But while J&J's action is significant, it's not the kind of magic bullet that will automatically decide your case. Even if you or a loved one have used Johnson's® Baby Powder for years, it's important to remember that use of a recalled/withdrawn product, on its own, won't justify the filing of a lawsuit (or at least it won't help prove your individual case).

In cases like these, the key is a link between the development of an illness like ovarian cancer and use of a product containing talc. So, a clear diagnosis is often a critical step on the path toward legal action.

If you think you're experiencing health problems that could be attributed to your use of Johnson's® Baby Powder or some other talc-based product, your best first step might be discussing your situation and your options with a lawyer. Learn how to find the right lawyer for you and your talc-asbestos case.

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