A COVID-19 Review Pulls Talc Baby Powder from Shelves

Health-care giant Johnson & Johnson has recently announced that it will be pulling its talc-based baby powder from store shelves across the United States and Canada. The announcement comes in response to a COVID-19-related portfolio assessment that was done in March. The portfolio assessment provoked the company’s decision to permanently discontinue nearly 100 products, including its talc-based baby powder to ensure that they can prioritize other high-demand COVID-19 products. 

Johnson & Johnson has stopped production of certain products so that they can increase their manufacturing level of essential medicines and products. They also stated that they cut production in order to adhere to proper social distancing measures. By eliminating production of about 100 products, they are able to free up space in manufacturing and distribution facilities.

Dwindling Demand

While Johnson & Johnson discontinued its iconic baby powder in response to the current pandemic, its statement alleges that they would have likely removed the product from store shelves in the near future anyway, due to its declining sales. Over the last few years, the company has seen a steady decline in demand for the talc-based baby powder, dropping by nearly 60% since 2017. The company cites that this diminishing demand is the results of misinformation and negative publicity surrounding the product. 

“The negative publicity stems from allegations that its talc-based baby powder is linked to cancer and the lawsuits that have ensued as a result,” Attorney Greg Yaffa  of Domnick Cunningham & Whalen explains. “But these concerns did not pop up overnight. There have been multiple studies since 1992 looking at the correlation between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.”

Concerns About Talc-Based Products

Johnson & Johnson has faced nearly 20,000 personal injury lawsuits regarding its talc-based baby powder, most are claims that it causes ovarian cancer. The company has been ordered by court verdicts to pay billions to plaintiffs alleging harm from talcum powder but has still been successful in reducing verdicts or having them dismissed entirely during the appeals process. The company is continuing to defend itself in court as it is currently in the midst of the appeals process regarding a 2018 case, in which the jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a $4.7 billion verdict.

There are additional accusations that the company knew of the talcum powder’s cancer risks since 2014 but continued to produce and sell the product regardless. Another string of lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson claim that talc-based products are linked to mesothelioma.

Other manufacturers of talc-based products have placed warning labels on their products regarding its possible link to cancer, but Johnson & Johnson has chosen not to under the belief that it would cause confusion. The company remains confident that the product is safe, despite the growing allegations against it. It stated that these safety concerns played no role in its decision to remove the product from store shelves.

Safety Risks of Talcum Powder

There have been conflicting scientific studies done on talc-based products and their link to ovarian cancer. Some researchers argue that there is an increased risk of ovarian cancer when talc-based products are used on genital regions on a regular basis. However, researchers are pushing for more studies to be done on talc-based products to determine its long-term impacts.

While the full health risks of talcum powder itself have so far been inconclusive, the biggest concern regarding talc-based products is the possibility that they could be contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen. While not all talc is contaminated with asbestos, it can be very common due to the natural formation of the minerals.

Looking Forward

Although Johnson & Johnson announced plans to pull talc-based baby powder, all existing inventory in stores will continue to be sold until supplies run out. This announcement also only applies to the United States and Canada, as the product will continue to be sold elsewhere around the world.

Despite being pulled from North American store shelves, legal professionals are expecting consumers to continue bringing cases against Johnson & Johnson for its talc-based baby powder as research into its health risks is still ongoing and the effects can be long-term. If you or a loved one has previously used talc-based baby powder and have questions or concerns regarding the impact it has had on your health, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today.