Johnson & Johnson has recalled a single lot of Baby Powder, after federal regulators detected trace amounts of cancer-causing asbestos in a bottle of the talc-based powder that was purchased online.
According to Reuters, Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder recall affects about 33,000 bottles sold in the United States. The single lot (Lot #22318RB) was manufactured and shipped in 2018.
The testing was apparently conducted by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). While Reuters was unable to reach an FDA spokesperson for comment, Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. indicated the tested sample contained “no greater than 0.00002% of chrysotile asbestos.”
The company said it was conducting the Baby Powder recall out “an abundance of caution” and has not yet confirmed whether the bottle tested was authentic or counterfeit, whether it had an intact seal, or whether the sample was prepared in a controlled environment to guard against cross-contamination.
“If you or someone you provide care for owns a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder Lot #22318RB, you are advised to discontinue use of the product,” a company statement advised. “For refund information, contact the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Care Center at www.johnsonsbaby.com or by calling +1 (866) 565-2229.”
Despite today’s Baby Powder recall, Johnson & Johnson continues to maintain that its talc-based powders are safe.
“Thousands of tests over the past 40 years repeatedly confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos,” Johnson & Johnson’s statement said. “Not only do we and our suppliers routinely test to ensure our talc does not contain asbestos, our talc has also been tested and confirmed to be asbestos-free by a range of independent laboratories, universities and global health authorities.”
However, Reuters reported last December that Johnson & Johnson’s raw talc and finished powders had, in fact, periodically tested positive for traces of asbestos since the 1970s. While the findings concerned many at the company, consumers and regulators were never informed.
In recent years, some body powder manufacturers have replaced talc with cornstarch. But Johnson & Johnson continued to sell Baby Powder and other talc-based powders, and even shifted its marketing strategy to target African-American and “curvy” women. According to Reuters, the company also sought to head-off efforts to regulate the presence of talc in cosmetic products.
Johnson & Johnson is currently defending more than 15,000 talcum powder lawsuits that blame Baby Powder and other popular brands for ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.
So far, about 12 juries have awarded multi-million-dollar verdicts to plaintiffs since talcum powder lawsuits began going to trial in February 2015, at least 10 have found for Johnson & Johnson, and several deadlocked. The company has successfully appealed several talcum powder verdicts and continues to work to have others overturned.
It’s too early to say how the Baby Powder recall will affect the litigation, as much will depend on the outcome of investigations being conducted by Johnson & Johnson and the FDA.