The pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, also known as J&J, has decided to stop making and selling baby powder containing talcum. From 2023 J&J will switch to using corn starch instead.
Two years ago the company withdrew talcum from the baby powder they sell in the USA and Canada. This followed a barrage of lawsuits. The company faces £2.9bn worth of costs and damages already awarded against them. It has assigned these to a subsidiary which is now filing for bankruptcy. This is also being contested in the courts.
Talcum is often found in close proximity to asbestos and critics allege that for about 70 years J&J knew their talcum-based products could be contaminated with asbestos fibres. In 2020 the US Food and Drug Administration found traces of asbestos in the baby powder. This led J&J to recall 33,000 bottles of talcum powder “out of an abundance of caution”.
J&J continues to maintain that its talc-based products do not cause cancer. However, the controversy has damaged the firm’s family-friendly image.