Johnson & Johnson announced Tuesday that it will end North American sales of talc-based baby powder as it battles thousands of lawsuits claiming the product causes cancer.
The move comes weeks after J&J failed to bar plaintiffs’ experts in a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) containing more than 16,000 talc lawsuits. A district judge overseeing the case ruled that expert witnesses are justified in claiming a statistical association between talc use and ovarian cancer.
Lawsuits allege Johnson’s Baby Powder is contaminated with asbestos and J&J knew about it for decades without warning users. J&J has denied the claims even while paying billions to resolve cases and recalling baby powder in 2019 when FDA testing found asbestos, a known carcinogen.
The company said in a statement that it remains confident in the safety of its talc-based baby powder and will “continue to vigorously defend the product” in court. But the decision to end sales of the powder, which represents 0.5% of J&J’s total U.S. Consumer Health business, is a major concession.
“Thousands of lives will be saved by getting this dangerous product off the market,” said Sanders Phillips Grossman Senior Partner Marc Grossman. “But thousands of more could have been saved if J&J had not kept information from the public for years.”
Research has linked talcum powder to ovarian cancer since at least the 1970s. According to a Reuters investigation, J&J was concerned over the problem but failed to disclose it as part of a campaign to influence science and U.S. policy in favor of cosmetic talc products.
Sanders Phillips Grossman represents approximately 700 women with ovarian cancer in claims against J&J. For the past six years, the firm has held seminars across the country to educate women on the risks of talcum powder. Victoria Maniatis serves on the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee of the J&J MDL. Danielle Mason heads SPG’s talcum powder litigation.
“The journey for justice for the thousands of women who died or suffered greatly from J&J talc powder began many years ago, with a simple request for adequate warning labels,” said Danielle. “While it is a victory that no one else will be able to start using talc powder and that no other family has to endure a cancer diagnosis from it, the journey will only end when J&J pays what they owe.”