Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) over the past four years as part of lawsuits tied to its talc-based Baby Powder. What was once considered a household staple—and for many decades—has been linked to several cases of ovarian cancer. Although J&J claimed the talc was safe for use in cosmetics and supported by scientific evidence, other organizations and experts have continued to push for the product’s removal from the market.
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Today, J&J announced that it has discontinued the sale of its Baby Powder in the United States and Canada: “Demand for talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising. Johnson & Johnson remains steadfastly confident in the safety of talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder. Decades of scientific studies by medical experts around the world support the safety of our product. We will continue to vigorously defend the product, its safety, and the unfounded allegations against it and the Company in the courtroom. All verdicts against the Company that have been through the appeals process have been overturned.”
According to J&J’s statement, it will “wind down” sales of the Baby Powder over the next few months and existing bottles will be sold by retailers until they run out. Its formula made with cornstarch, not talc, will remain on the market in the U.S. and Canada, and the talc-based version will still be available in other parts of the world “where there is significantly higher consumer demand for the product.”
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has been championing the removal of Baby Powder from the marketplace, is excited by the news and is also calling on other cosmetic companies to end the use of talc in any of their loose powders, as many talc deposits are contaminated with asbestos fibers that can cause deadly diseases. “It’s good news that Johnson & Johnson has ended the sale of talc-based baby powders in the U.S. and Canada,” says Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “Now other companies need to follow their lead.”
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EWG’s Skin Deep database lists 2,119 talc-based products, including baby powders; more than 1,000 are loose or pressed powders that could pose the risk of inhalation. However, many beauty brands argue that modern testing protocols make it possible to properly test talc for asbestos, which allows them to ensure they aren’t using anything that may be contaminated. And even then, many “clean” brands steer clear of it because of the negative stigma attached, and because there are great alternatives out there now, such as kaolin clay, arrowroot powder and silica.