On Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would be permanently discontinuing production of its Johnson’s talc-based baby powder in North America. The last few years has seen the giant facing thousands of lawsuits and enormous judgments against the company. According to the announcement, the company will allow its existing stock to sell out but will not replenish it.
The Johnson & Johnson brand of baby powder first ran into problems when researchers found that the product was contaminated with asbestos. Johnson & Johnson has fought against these researchers’ findings, questioning the methods and results. This has led to billions of dollars in punitive judgements, mostly from women suffering from ovarian cancer they say was caused, in part, by the talc powder.
Johnson & Johnson’s announcement points out that all of the judgments that “have been through the appeals process have been overturned.” The company says that the decision to discontinue their famous baby powder line was the result of “portfolio assessment related to COVID-19.” The company, which had stopped shipping many products in March—related to the pandemic slow-downs—decided to make the cessation of the baby powder line permanent.
The asbestos contamination of talc can occur during the mining process. Since the 1980s, Johnson & Johnson has offered a corn starch-based alternative. According to The New York Times, the company was facing at least 19,000 lawsuits related to their talc-based powder lines as of this March. A lawyer who has been representing thousands of families suing Johnson & Johnson told the Times: “They can give all the reasons they want — I’m just thankful the stuff is off the market. I do believe this will save untold misery and lives.”