Johnson & Johnson, one of the foremost medical service and retail companies, has announced that it would stop selling its talc powder brand in the United States and Canada.
In a statement published earlier today, the New Jersey-based company confirmed that it would end its talc-based powder sales in the two countries, citing decreased demand from both countries as a significant driving factor.
The Asbestos Claims Continue to Rack Up
The company already faced a significant amount of criticism after reports confirmed that some of its products contained harmful content. In late 2019, it had to fend off stories that its product had included asbestos – a known carcinogen.
Asbestos is known to occur naturally underground, and close to talc for that matter. When it breaks down and gets deposited in the lung tissue, the product could lead to issues such as asbestosis, mesothelioma (the growth of a tumor in the lungs), and even lung cancer.
In December 2018, Reuters published a report revealing that Johnson & Johnson had known about the asbestos in its products for decades.
As the news medium explained, the firm conducted tests on its finished powders and raw talc from at least 1971 to the early 2000s. In those tests, it found that the products had sometimes contained small amounts of asbestos. Still, the top leadership did little about it.
“Company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public,” the report explained.
The documents that Reuters found also showed that Johnson & Johnson had successfully influenced attempts by the country’s regulators to limit the level of asbestos in talc products. When research into asbestos’ health implications began, the firm tried to suppress that as well, according to the report.
J&J’s Family-Friendly Reputation Wears Off
That same year, a jury in St. Louis ordered the company to pay $4.7 billion to 22 women and their families after they accused its products of giving them ovarian cancer. Last year, the company paid a California woman $29 million after she claimed to have developed mesothelioma while using their product.
The firm is still appealing some of the claims, but they’ve been piling on all the same. The firm also had to deal with a separate case, after an Oklahoma judge ordered them to pay $572 million concerning the firm’s actions in fueling an opioid epidemic in the state.
All of that had put Johnson & Johnson in a tricky spot. In October last year, the firm recalled as much as 33,000 bottles after regulators at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that several bottles purchased online did contain asbestos. Later that month, the multinational came out to deny any wrongdoing, claiming test results didn’t show any composition of asbestos.
Whether or not the firm is ready to admit, the smears in the media have been enough to impact its sales across two of its largest markets.
“Demand for talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising,” the firm’s statement said.
The firm continued to deny any possible asbestos issues, stating in the press release that there were decades of scientific research that supported the safety of its products.