In a news release issued Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson said its consumer health department began prioritizing high-demand items during the COVID-19 pandemic and is now choosing to permanently discontinue several of the items it stopped manufacturing, including the talc-based baby powder.
Kathleen Widmer, chairman of the company's North America consumer unit, said it was a "commercial decision" to discontinue the sale of the baby powder.
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J&J will wind down sales in those markets over the coming months, said Kathleen Widmer, chairman of the company's North America consumer unit. The world's biggest maker of health care products said Tuesday, May 19, 2020 that the discontinuation only affects the US and Canada, where demand has been declining. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they travel to the ends of small air passages and reach the membranes of the thorax and lungs.
If swallowed, these fibers can reach the abdominal lining, where they can cause mesothelioma.
Ovarian cancer is another cancer asbestos is believed to be linked to, and is at the heart of Johnson & Johnson lawsuits in which women have claimed talcum powder has given them the cancer. Talc mines, however, can also yield asbestos, a mineral once used in products such as building insulation.
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However, some smaller studies have found a small link and the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies genital use of talc as "possibly carcinogenic". The FDA's test prompted J&J to recall of one lot of Johnson's baby powder in October.
There have been numerous lawsuits filed against the Johnson & Johnson over the safety of the baby powder and a year ago a state jury ordered the company and its talc supplier to pay an additional $80 million in punitive damages to a New Jersey man who sued the companies, claiming he developed cancer from asbestos in talc-based baby powder.
In April, a New Jersey judge ruled that thousands of plaintiffs who allege that J&J's talc products caused cancer can go forward with their claims, but face limits on what expert testimony will be allowed in trials.
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While Johnson & Johnson insists it is "steadfastly confident" in the safety of its talc-based baby powder, vowing to "vigorously defend the product" from "unfounded allegations", the company has faced a flurry of lawsuits from customers over the years alleging the powder contains cancer-causing agents like asbestos.