Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is currently facing thousands of lawsuits alleging the talc in its baby powder causes cancer. After fighting against those claims for years, the company suddenly recalled over 30,000 bottles of baby powder just last month after Food & Drug Administration tests revealed the product contained asbestos. Eight months prior to Johnson & Johnson’s recall, however, competitor Bausch Health Cos. Inc. stopped putting talc in its Shower to Shower powder product altogether. Both of these moves by the beauty companies seem to contradict the argument that talc in powder products does not cause cancer.
The Danger of Talc
Talc is used in powder products because it keeps skin dry. However, talc is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in very close proximity to another natural mineral: asbestos. Because the minerals are found in such close proximity, when talc is mined, it can often be contaminated by asbestos, which is a carcinogen known to cause cancer.
The move by Bausch to stop using talc in its baby powder back in February and the massive recall issued by J&J in October 2019 both call into question the companies’ consistent claims that their products are not contaminated and do not cause cancer.
The reason you likely had no idea that Bausch removed talc from its products is because the company didn’t announce the move. It simply removed the talc and replaced the key ingredient with cornstarch. Many argue that this was Bausch’s way of protecting itself against the lawsuits it currently faces. By announcing they were removing the product, they could have opened the door for the argument to be made they knew it was harmful.
Others argue the secretive move by Bausch was simply due to the indemnity agreement they signed with Johnson & Johnson. An indemnity agreement is a legal contract in which party, the indemnitee, is protected from liability, while the other, the indemnifier, agrees to reimburse the indemnitee for any losses or damages suffered. Here, J&J and Bausch signed an indemnity agreement in April 2019 in which J&J agreed to reimburse Bausch for any damages it is forced to pay as a result of talc litigation. Many feel that the secretive removal of talc by Bausch served to limit its liability and to ensure that it would remain indemnified under the agreement with J&J.
Bausch claims the removal of talc from its Shower to Shower powder was not made for any safety reason but simply due to “market trends and customer preference.”
Johnson & Johnson is not only facing thousands of civil lawsuits brought by those who claim its baby powder cause their cancer, but it is also the subject of a criminal probe launched by the Justice Department July. The investigation has turned criminal in an effort to determine whether Johnson & Johnson lied to the public regarding the danger of talc.