Authorities in Sri Lanka have stopped all imports of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, amid concern the popular product might contain cancer-causing asbestos.
According to Reuters, the import ban will remain in effect until the company proves the product is asbestos-free.
“We have held their re-registration and informed the distributor to submit quality reports from an accredited laboratory to ensure there is no asbestos in their products,” Kamal Jayasinghe, chief executive of Sri Lanka’s National Medicine Regulatory Authority, said.
While Johnson & Johnson is banned from importing Baby Powder for the time being, stores in Sri Lanka can continue to sell their existing stock.
According to a spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson, the company is cooperating with the government and is awaiting test results.
In December, Reuters reported that Johnson & Johnson’s executives knew for decades that testing had detected small amounts of asbestos in some of the raw talc used to manufacture Baby Powder and other popular body powders.
The tests were commissioned by Johnson & Johnson and periodically conducted by independent labs from the 1971 through the 2000s. Although most turned up no trace of the carcinogenic substance, a few detected miniscule amounts of asbestos.
Testing conducted at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in 1971 also found traces of asbestos in Baby Powder, as did testing done at Rutgers University in 1991. A scientist at the University of Minnesota detected asbestos in a sample of Shower-to-Shower in 1972.
According to Reuters, internal company documents suggests the asbestos findings worried many at Johnson & Johnson. But out of concern for the company’s “caring” image, they took no action to inform regulators or the public.
In the United States, over 11,000 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits that claim Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder caused cancer. Initially, most were filed on behalf of women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer merely because they used the Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powders for feminine hygiene.
However, a growing number of Baby Powder lawsuits now allege that asbestos-tainted talc caused either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.
Since 2016, more than a dozen Johnson & Johnson talcum powder lawsuits have gone to trial in courts throughout the country. Plaintiffs have won eight cases so far, with verdicts ranging from $4.7 million to $25 million. However, some verdicts were later overturned.
Four juries have found for Johnson & Johnson, while mistrials were declared in three cases.
Johnson & Johnson struck its first Baby Powder settlement last month, when it resolved a mesothelioma lawsuit scheduled for trial in New York City’s Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL).