Johnson & Johnson is suspending sales of talcum baby powder in the USA and Canada. The product had been in the limelight for nearly 20,000 lawsuits filed by cancer patients.
The company said that it would bring down sales over the next few months, allowing the existing stock to be sold by retailers until they run out. Baby powder made with cornstarch will remain accessible while talc-based baby powder will continue to be sold in other parts of the world.
The action originated from a move in March to end shipping hundreds of items to the United States and Canada so that it can prioritize products with greater demand and allow safer conditions in manufacturing and distribution facilities.
The main component in baby powder was talc, a mineral known for its softness. It was only in 1980 after consumer advocates raised anxieties that talc contained traces of asbestos, a known carcinogen, that the company produced as a cornstarch alternative.
Johnson & Johnson has spent decades pitching uncertainty on reports of asbestos in baby powder and other talc body powders, stating that inadequate testing, poor science and ill-equipped researchers are to indict for any concerning reports. But in recent years, thousands of people have sued the company over allegations that it did not accurately warn them of the risks of using baby powder.
As of late March, Johnson & Johnson suffered 19,400 lawsuits linked to talc body powders. After months of anticipation, a federal judge ruled that scientific experts could testify with some exceptions which came as a huge blow to Johnson & Johnson, which had been forcing to reject the testimony in hopes of shutting down thousands of cases.
The judicial history has been mixed so far. Several juries have voted against Johnson & Johnson, in one case granting $4.7 billion to 22 women in 2018. But the company has commanded in other cases and is contesting nearly all the cases it has lost.
In October, Johnson & Johnson summoned 33,000 bottles of baby powder after the Food and Drug Administration said it found proof of chrysotile asbestos in a bottle purchased from an online retailer. Weeks later, the company said that multiple tests of the same bottle came up clean.