Johnson and Johnson U-Turn Finally!
Within hours of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) announcing plans to withdraw its iconic talc-based baby powder from sale in all global markets in 2023,1 the news had spread around the world.2 Coverage of this development was published in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Qatar, India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Israel, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and elsewhere.3 What was remarkable was not the massive interest in this story but the fact that not one of the articles asked why toxic baby powder which had been withdrawn from sale two years ago in North America was still being sold in their country.
Most of the August 12, 2022 articles reported the bare bones as disclosed in the August 11 J&J statement with a bit of additional information usually related to the companys asbestos-related liabilities; in general, reporters mentioned the points listed below:
What went unremarked upon in most of these articles was the desperate plight of tens of thousands of North Americans who had contracted mesothelioma, ovarian and lung cancers as a result of using the tainted baby powder. Claims brought against J&J are now frozen as a result of corporate machinations which allowed the parent company to off-load its liabilities to a financial vehicle which was promptly put into bankruptcy.
Outside the U.S., the number and identities of individuals who have contracted deadly diseases from using J&Js iconic baby powder remains unknown. Ever since the company had stopped sales in the U.S. and Canada, groups representing asbestos victims and consumers, health and safety campaigners and investor-activists had condemned the corporations callous and racist marketing strategy which continued to expose women and children outside of North America to deadly fibers present in the talc-based baby powder.6
In 2020, grassroots campaigner Mohit Gupta from the Occupational and Environment Health Network of India was forthright in his condemnation:
Johnson & Johnsons talc-based baby powder is sold in India and is very popular. In fact, it has a dominant share in Indias very lucrative market for baby products. It is very shameful that the company has decided to continue sales in India as if Indian lives dont matter. This is yet one more example of corporations putting profit before the lives of people. Instead of replacing the toxic baby powder with one free of asbestos in India, as they are doing in North America, they are just pushing sales of this hazardous product in a market with weak regulatory mechanisms, few testing guidelines and low consumer awareness. Failure of manufacturers to warn potential users of hazards posed by use of their product is a crime but I cannot imagine Johnson & Johnson putting labels on the cannisters of baby powder stating that this product is no longer sold in US and Canada because of health concerns.7
Welcoming the plan to end all sales of the toxic baby powder, Sugio Furuya, Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN), said:
Whilst ABAN is relieved that Johnson & Johnson has finally done the right thing, there can be no doubt that its delay in acting will result in many more cancer cases cases which could have been avoided had this toxic product been withdrawn simultaneously in all markets. The company has an obligation to disclose all its data on sales of its talc-based baby powder in Asia and other regions. ABAN members will collaborate with consumer groups, health and safety campaigners and government agencies throughout the region to spread awareness of the toxic nature of J&Js talc-based product so that those affected in the future will have recourse to support and compensation.8
August 15, 2022
1 Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health to Transition Global Baby Powder Portfolio to Cornstarch. August 11, 2022.
2 强生在全球范围更换婴儿爽身粉配方表 终究顶不住成堆致癌诉讼压力 [Johnson & Johnson's global change of baby powder formula table can't stand the pressure of piles of cancer lawsuits]. August 12, 2022.
Джонсон и Джонсон прекратит продажи тальковой присыпки [Johnson & Johnson to stop selling talcum powder]. August 12, 2022.
Johnson & Johnson, talk bazlı bebek pudrasının küresel satışını sonlandırıyor [Johnson & Johnson ends global sale of talc-based baby powder]. August 12, 2022.
ג'ונסון אנד ג'ונסון מורידה מהמדפים אבקת טלק לתינוקות [Johnson & Johnson is taking baby talcum powder off the shelves]. August 12, 2022.
Ç Johnson & Johnson αντικαθιστά το ταλκ με καλαμποκάλευρο [Johnson & Johnson replaces talc with cornstarch]. August 12, 2022.
Bedak Bayi Ini Disebut Memicu Kanker, Akan Berhenti Dijual Mulai Tahun Depan [Baby Powder Called Cancer Trigger, Will Stop Selling From Next Year]. August 12, 2022.
Johnson & Johnson stops making talcum powder amid cancer scare. August 12, 2022.
J&J to end global sales of talcum-based baby powder. August 12, 2022.
Johnson's vai parar de fabricar talco para bebês: há riscos no produto? [Johnson's to stop making baby powder: are there risks in the product?]. August 12, 2022.
Johnson & Johnson thông báo dừng bán hoàn toàn phấn rôm trẻ em sử dụng bột talc [Johnson & Johnson announced to completely stop selling baby powder using talcum powder]. August 12, 2022.
3 Johnson & Johnson met fin aux ventes mondiales de talc pour bébé [Johnson & Johnson ends global sales of baby powder]. August 12, 2022.
5 J&Js talc-based baby powder had been withdrawn from sale in North American markets in 2020.
Kazan-Allen, L. White Powder, Black Lies. July 10, 2020.
6 Kazan-Allen, L. Johnson and Johnson: Condemned! May 9, 2022.
Kazan-Allen, L. Holding Johnson & Johnson to Account. March 17, 2022.
7 Press Release. Death, Duplicity and Double Standards. May 25, 2020.
8 Email from Sugio Furuya. August 12, 2022.