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Johnson & Johnson Discontinues North American Sales of Iconic Talc-based Baby Powder

Holly Kelly Ennis May 20, 2020

Johnson & Johnson announced that it discontinued its talc-based baby powder products in the United States and Canada after being hit with thousands of lawsuits alleging asbestos contaminated the product causing cancer in thousands of users. The decision to cease sales of the product is a huge concession for Johnson & Johnson, which has promoted the product as pure and gentle enough for babies since 1893. The company stopped shipping hundreds of talc-based items to the US and Canada after coming to a "commercial decision" to discontinue sales in North America. All existing inventory will continue to be sold through retailers until supplies run out and the company will continue to promote baby powder made with cornstarch. Talc-based products will continue to be sold in other parts of the world.

Johnson & Johnson has faced thousands of lawsuits accusing it of hiding the cancer risks associated with talc-based baby powder since 2014.  The company has been hit with mutiple verdicts in the millions of dollars for compensatory and punitive damages.  Even though it has announced the withdrawal of the talc-based baby products, the company has said it "will continue to vigorously defend the product" in court.  In the 1980's, after consumer advocates raised concerns that talc contained traces of asbestos, a known carcinogen, the company developed a cornstarch alternative. However, the company continued to market the talc-based products with no warnings regarding the potential dangers for years.  

Plaintiffs' lawyers have argued that traces of the feared carcinogen asbestos were present in talc and that even microscopic amounts were capable of causing cancer. Asbestos contamination can occur when the talc is mined as the two minerals can be intermingled underground. Internal memos revealed that Johnson & Johnson had been concerned for at least 50 years about the possibility of traces of asbestos in its talc.  As of the end of March, the company faced nearly 20,000 lawsuits related to talc body powders.  A federal judge ruled last month that plaintiffs' experts could testify in the litigation, dealing Johnson & Johnson a heavy blow as it vigorously fought to exclude this vital testimony in the hopes of dismissing thousands of cases.

In October, Johnson & Johnson had recalled 33,000 bottles of baby powder after the FDA claimed it discovered evidence of chrysotile asbestos in a bottle purchased online.  However, the company tested the bottle and claimed the bottle was clean after multiple tests. The standoff occurred as lawsuits continued to climb.  Discontinuing the talc-based products in the U.S. could limit the number of future cancer lawsuits the company will face. This should create an end date for the talc claims and start to limit potential liability for the company.

If you or a loved one used talc-based baby products and developed cancer, contact the attorneys at Ennis & Ennis, P.A. or visit us online at for a free consultation 24/7/365.