Johnson & Johnson recalls baby powders after FDA test shows positive with asbestos

Johnson & Johnson announced that they are voluntarily recalling a batch of baby powders sent to distributors after a bottle was tested positive of asbestos. The issue prompted thousands to file lawsuits against the company over health concerns.

In the statement released by Johnson & Johnson last Friday, the company said that 33,000 bottles of its Johnson’s Baby Powder would be recalled as a safety measure. The US Food and Drug Administration discovered that a single bottle of the batch shipped in the United States last year had levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination.

People who own a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder from Lot #22318RB should stop using it, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (JJCI) said in its release.

“I understand today’s recall may be concerning to all those individuals who may have used the affected lot of baby powder,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless said in a statement on Friday. “I want to assure everyone that the agency takes these concerns seriously and that we are committed to our mandate of protecting public health.”

In light of the recall, people claimed that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum products contributed to their cancers.

Talc is the main ingredient used in formulating powders. Powdered talc absorbs moisture and is used in a range of cosmetics — from eye shadow, and in this case, the ones in Johnson’s Baby Powder.

However, talc can be contaminated with asbestos because deposits of both of the naturally occurring minerals can occur close to each other underground. The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer considers all forms of asbestos carcinogenic to humans. The agency added that the mineral causes cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovaries, as well as mesotheliomas, which are cancers that develop in the inner lining of tissue surrounding some organs

As a means to mitigate the risk of asbestos contamination, the FDA has been conducting ongoing research into the potential contamination of talc with asbestos across different brands and products.

“Both talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals that may be found in close proximity in the earth. Unlike talc, however, asbestos is a known carcinogen. There is the potential for contamination of talc with asbestos, and therefore, it is important to select talc mining sites carefully and take steps to test the ore sufficiently,” according to the FDA.

Johnson & Johnson has argued that they take thorough steps to screen for talc that’s tainted with asbestos. “JJCI has a rigorous testing standard in place to ensure its cosmetic talc is safe and years of testing, including the FDA’s own testing on prior occasions–and as recently as last month, found no asbestos,” the company said in its Friday release.

The company noted that the levels found were no higher than 0.00002% and that at this early stage of its investigation into the matter. As of now, Johnson & Johnson is trying to determine whether cross-contamination occurred, whether the sample came from a bottle with an intact seal or whether the tested product is authentic.

Notably, this is not the first time Johnson & Johnson has been involved with issues regarding their baby powders being contaminated by asbestos.

The New York Times reported last year that Johnson & Johnson executives had for years discussed possible asbestos contamination in its powder and talc products in internal company memos.

Company chiefs were worried that the Johnson’s Baby Powder brand would be tarnished, and were concerned about a government ban on talc, the report said.

Over decades spanning the 1970s to 2000s, the company’s raw talc and products sometimes tested positive for asbestos, Reuters reported in December, citing company documents produced in litigation.

In one historic decision last year, a jury awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women and their families. The women had claimed that their ovarian cancer was linked to asbestos contamination in the company’s powder and talc products.

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