J & J Pulls 33,000 Bottles of Baby Powder After Asbestos Traces Are Found in Testing

Image: Fox News

Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the makers of baby powder and many other baby and beauty products, was forced to recall 33,000 bottles of baby powder in the United States after the Food and Drug Administration found trace amounts of asbestos, a known carcinogen, in samples taken from a bottle purchased online.  The recall caused retailers like Target and CVS Drug Stores to remove all 22 oz J&J baby powder products from their shelves, even those not covered by the recall, and stock prices for the company took a hit.

Why This Matters:  J&J has maintained that its powder products do not contain asbestos — but now that the government testing revealed traces of asbestos, the company is at even greater risk of losing the public’s trust.  The company has lost several lawsuits (there are thousands more cases pending) and had billions in judgments against it already (all of which they are appealing), in which users of its baby powder claimed it caused their cancer. The company had claimed that its powder did not contain asbestos and did not cause cancer.  But Reuters reported last year that internal company records and other evidence show that “from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.”  J & J needs to come clean — their entire company was built on the motto safety first.

The Cases Against J & J

The fact that the company appears to have known of the asbestos in its talcum powder but publicly denied it has been a key factor in its losses in court.

Why Is Asbestos in Baby Powder?

Johnson’s Baby Powder was created by the company more than 125 years ago as packets of talc used to treat skin irritation, but then mothers began applying the talc to infants’ diaper-chafed skin. The company realized that it would be a huge seller so they added a fragrance that would become one of the most recognizable in the world, and began selling it in 1893 as Johnson’s Baby Powder.  In the late 1950s, J&J discovered that talc from its chief source mine contained a substance called tremolite that can sometimes be found in talc deposits as crystalline fiber known as asbestos, which is a known carcinogen.  The World Health Organization says there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and although most people exposed to asbestos never develop cancer, for some, even small amounts of asbestos are enough to trigger the disease years later.

To Go Deeper: The New York Times expose, and the Reuters report on the lies J&J told about the safety of its baby powder are worth your time.

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