Johnson & Johnson recalled 33,000 bottles of baby powder in October 2019, after U.S. Food and Drug Administration testing revealed trace amounts of asbestos contamination. Five months later, federal laboratory tests identified asbestos in roughly 20 percent of all talc-based product samples tested. On May 19, 2020, Johnson and Johnson announced they would no longer be selling talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada.
If you have been a regular purchaser of J&J baby powder, you’re likely wondering what the recall means for you and your family’s safety. At least 18,283 talcum powder lawsuits are pending against the company in MDL 2783, consolidated before Chief Judge Freda L. Wilson in New Jersey, as of July 2020. Showard Law Firm is here to answer any questions you have with a free consultation.
Why was there a baby powder recall?
Consumers should not come into contact with asbestos— it is a known carcinogen linked to mesothelioma, as well as cancers of the fallopian tubes, larynx, lung, and ovaries. The federal government states there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Even small amounts and exposures as short as a few days can trigger life-threatening and incurable cancers. The Environmental Working Group Action Fund estimates up to 15,000 Americans die from asbestos-related diseases each year.
Important information about the Johnson and Johnson baby powder recall
The recalled bottles were specifically from Lot #22318RB– the lot where FDA testing found contamination. The lot number can be found on the back of the bottle underneath the cap. They were sold at major retailers, including Walmart, CVS, and Rite Aid.
You may still find Johnson & Johnson baby powders on the shelves of some smaller retailers. They have announced a “gradual phase-out” of the product, with existing inventory continuing to sell. Other talc-based powders such as Angel of Mine Baby Powder sold at Dollar Tree and Spring Fresh Powder sold at Walmart remain available on the market. However, they include warnings that talcum powder for feminine hygiene may increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Consumers seeking a talcum powder alternative may use cornstarch, arrowroot starch, or tapioca starch-based baby powders instead.
J&J has a long history of denial about talc product cancer risks
Even though rigorous third-party testing on the same bottle and FDA tests of other lots did not find asbestos, the retailers opted to pull all bottles from their shelves as a precautionary measure. The company has suggested that the test was a “fluke” involving “cross-contamination,” but internal documents reveal that the company has known about the potential for asbestos contamination since the 1970s.
- Internal Johnson & Johnson documents from 1972 note that asbestos was found in 100% of the talc samples tested at the time, though this information was never made public.
- One internal memo from 1975 acknowledged the link between talc use for feminine hygiene and ovarian cancer, calling it the “talc ovary problem,” according to evidence from a 2017 trial. (The Los Angeles jury ordered J&J to pay a woman with ovarian cancer $417 million in that trial.)
- The company told the FDA there was no asbestos found in talc tested between December 1972 and October 1973. Still, at least three tests from three different laboratories document it– including one case at levels reported as “rather high.”
- In 1997, a toxicology expert hired by J&J told the company at least nine studies had shown a “statistically significant ovarian cancer risk” in women who applied talc products to their genitals.
- In 2006, J&J’s talc supplier, Imerys, added warning labels about genital talc use and ovarian cancer in its shipments, but J&J never added a warning to their bottles.
What does J&J say about the recall?
Johnson & Johnson rigorously defended the product stating: “Thousands of tests over the past 40 years repeatedly confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos. Our talc comes from ore sources confirmed to meet our stringent specifications that exceed industry standards. Not only do we and our suppliers routinely test to ensure our talc does not contain asbestos, our talc has also been tested and confirmed to be asbestos-free by a range of independent laboratories, universities, and global health authorities.”
The company has blamed “misinformation” and “a constant barrage of litigation advertising” for a decline in sales, which has caused them to stop selling in North America.
What to do if you or a loved one have been harmed prior to Johnson’s baby powder recall
If you or a loved one have been seriously harmed by the use of a product, you may be eligible to receive financial compensation that covers your medical bills, along with a measure of pain and suffering. Surviving family members who have lost a loved one may recover money for funeral and burial expenses in a wrongful death lawsuit.
A product recall is not necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. However, in this case, the J&J baby powder recall and subsequent discontinuation in North America will likely aid in establishing liability. Recalls generally encourage more plaintiffs to come forward and more law firms to accept the cases. J&J may be more likely to settle now that future North American sales are no longer on the line.
Contact us at Showard Law Firm to learn more
To be eligible for a lawsuit, you must have a substantial history of regular baby powder use and injuries documented by a medical professional. At this time, there are no lawsuits for people who “may have been harmed”– only for those who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer. Showard Law Firm in Arizona is actively accepting cases to be filed in the national litigation associated with the J&J baby powder recall. Contact us to learn how to pursue a valid claim for compensation.