CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - An iconic household baby powder will disappear from shelves in the U.S. and Canada, in part because thousands of cancer patients are claiming it made them sick.
This week, Johnson & Johnson announced that after a "portfolio assessment related to COVID-19" the company will permanently discontinue 100 SKUs, including its talc-based baby powder.
"It is great. It is one step in the right direction," said Mt. Pleasant attorney Carmen Scott. "It is not as far as they need to go. They're still going to sell the product until it's all done, all sold. And they're not going to withdraw the product from sales in other places. Why? We're not sure."
Scott is an attorney who works with Motley Rice, which represents thousands of American women who say frequently using J&J’s baby powder over years caused them to develop ovarian cancer. Another segment of lawsuits involves lung cancer accusations.
Johnson & Johnson said demand for the talc-based powder is down "due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product."
Scott says Motley Rice's experts will prove the product isn't safe, and that asbestos has been detected in the talc.
Scott said, “We know this for a couple of reasons. Primarily because when these women have tumors removed, we can look into the tumors and a lot of times we can actually see talc within those tumors under a microscope.”
The FDA doesn't regulate non-medical products like baby powder.
“That’s what’s so frustrating about this case,” said Scott. “This is not a product that saves lives or cures any illness. It’s purely a cosmetic product. One that could have been replaced by any number of products. One that certainly could have saved a lot of lives if never placed into use, or if the proper warnings were there decades ago when we believe Johnson & Johnson knew about these hazards.”
She expects to see more cases before juries next year.
Johnson & Johnson, "will continue to vigorously defend the product, its safety, and the unfounded allegations against it and the Company in the courtroom. All verdicts against the Company that have been through the appeals process have been overturned," the company said in a statement.
Cornstarch-based Johnson’s Baby Powder will remain available in North America.