Johnson & Johnson (J&J) will stop manufacturing and marketing baby talcum powder worldwide starting next year.
The announcement comes more than two years after the healthcare giant ended sales of the product in the US.
J&J faces tens of thousands of lawsuits from women alleging that its talcum powder contained asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
Baby powder is used to prevent diaper rash and for cosmetic uses, including as a dry shampoo.
Talc is mined from the earth and is found in layers close to asbestos, which is a material known to cause cancer.
A 2018 investigation by the Reuters news agency said J&J had known for decades that asbestos was present in its talc products.
The news outlet claims that internal company records, trial depositions and other evidence showed that from at least 1971 through the early 2000s, J&J’s raw talc and by-products tested positive for small amounts of asbestos in some tests. .
But the company reiterated its position that decades of independent research show the product is safe. “Our position on the safety of our cosmetic powder remains unchanged.”
“We firmly uphold decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirm that Johnson’s talc-based talc is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer,” he said.
“As part of a worldwide portfolio assessment, we have made the commercial decision to transition to a cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio,” it said in a statement.
The company added that cornstarch-based baby powder is already sold in countries around the world.
Why asbestos poses health risks
Asbestos is a mineral that is present in nature.
A variety of the substance, white asbestos, is used in the construction industry in developing countries but is banned in most industrialized countries because of health risks.
Asbestos is heat and fire resistant. In addition, the material is durable and inexpensive, so it can be used in a variety of ways. It can be mixed with cement to make ceilings and floors. It is also used in pipes, ceilings, vehicle brakes, among others.
Microscopic fragments of asbestos fibers are potentially dangerous when inhaled and can cause respiratory illness:
- Lung cancer, which is most common in people exposed to asbestos;
- Mesothelioma, a form of breast cancer that mostly only occurs in people exposed to asbestos;
- Asbestosis, a disease that causes shortness of breath and can lead to more serious breathing problems.
White asbestos, known as chrysotile, is the only form of asbestos used today. The WHO (World Health Organization) says the variation is also associated with mesothelioma and other types of cancer, but its producers say the substance is safe if handled with care.
Some experts claim that white asbestos poses less of a health risk than blue and brown asbestos, but even companies that sell the substance say workers should avoid inhaling the air with the product.
The substance is widely produced and used in Brazil, despite some isolated efforts to ban it. Brazil is the third largest producer and exporter of asbestos, which is sold to countries such as Colombia and Mexico. The country is also the fifth largest consumer of the product.
more about the case
In 2020, J&J said it would stop selling baby powder in the US and Canada because demand had fallen after what it called “misinformation” about the product’s safety amid multiple legal cases.
At the time, the company said it would continue to sell its talc-based baby powder in the UK and the rest of the world.
The company faces lawsuits from consumers and its survivors who allege that J&J’s talc products caused cancer due to asbestos contamination.
In response to evidence of asbestos contamination presented in US courts, media reports and lawmakers, the company has repeatedly denied the allegations.
In October, J&J created a subsidiary, LTL Management, ceding its talc rights to it. Later, LTL filed for bankruptcy, which stopped the pending court proceedings.
In April, a shareholder proposal calling for an end to global sales of the product failed.
Johnson’s baby powder has been sold for nearly 130 years and has become one of the company’s hallmarks.
This text was originally published here