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Johnson & Johnson Recalls 33,000 Bottles of Baby Powder That May Contain Asbestos

Illustration for article titled Johnson  Johnson Recalls 33,000 Bottles of Baby Powder That May Contain Asbestos
Image: AP

Johnson & Johnson has recalled 33,000 bottles of baby powder after the Food and Drug Administration found evidence of asbestos contamination in a single bottle purchased online.

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The company announced the recall on October 18. This is the first time the company has actually recalled the product, despite 15,000 lawsuits from people who say Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products caused them to develop cancers ranging from mesothelioma to ovarian cancer. However, there is evidence that the company may have known it was poisoning people for decades.

In 2018, a New York Times article reported that a Johnson & Johnson executive allegedly sent around a memo voicing concerns about baby powder contamination in 1971, which led to 40 years of the company reportedly downplaying and denying such contamination. Now, David Noll, a law professor at Rutgers University tells the Times it will most likely be impossible for the company to keep up that pretense in light of the FDA’s findings and the recall:

“I can’t imagine an attorney for Johnson & Johnson standing up in front of a jury now and saying with a straight face that the product is safe,” Mr. Noll said. He added that “if people come to associate the company’s signature product with deadly diseases, there will be huge spillover effects for its ability to market other products.”

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The recall was spurred by the discovery of chrysotile asbestos in a bottle of baby powder sourced from China and purchased online. The company learned of the results on October 17 and recalled all bottles from lot number 22318RB the next day, though company officials argued it was not even that much asbestos:

“Johnson & Johnson officials emphasized on Friday that the level of asbestos detected was very low, just a fraction of 1 percent of the sample. United States health agencies, however, say there is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos.”

The pending lawsuits could cost Johnson & Johnson as much as $10 billion, not to mention the fact that many will probably no longer trust any products made by a company that may have encouraged the general public to sprinkle asbestos on naked babies for 40 years.

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DISCUSSION

bananabunny
Bananabunny

...many will probably no longer trust any products made by a company that may have encouraged the general public to sprinkle asbestos on naked babies for 40 years.

That’s such a sickening thought, isn’t it? Let me just sprinkle come future cancer on my baby. I remember getting sample bottles of baby powder in a freebie diaper bag, given to me at the hospital when my baby was born 21 years ago. JFC.

All their “feel good” marketing and brand name nostalgia will never allow me to view J&J as anything other than heartless, just like all the other medical supply companies that cover their asses to avoid paying out in lawsuits. Between their baby powder lawsuits, their involvement in the opioid crisis, their Risperdal lawsuits and their $117 million transvaginal mesh lawsuit settlement, it seems they’ve had no problem with using people as test subjects while profiting from products that have been shown to cause harm.

J&J shares have been under pressure this year, widely underperforming the S&P healthcare sector, as the company faces tens of thousands of lawsuits alleging deceptive marketing and harm from side effects caused by its products, including baby powder, opioid drugs and medical devices.

On Wednesday, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters the company would pay $4 billion in cash to resolve lawsuits seeking to hold it responsible for partly fueling the U.S. opioid crisis.

Last week, a jury hit J&J with $8 billion in punitive damages for a case involving its anti-psychotic drug Risperdal, highlighting the risks an all-or-nothing legal strategy could have.” (quoted from the Reuters story in the previous link).

The J&J name has been trusted for far too long. Fuck em.

OT but related, are there any “safe” alternative baby powder products out there? I would never use this stuff on a baby (thankfully I never felt the need), but I can sometimes see the appeal of adults using a powder product to freshen up (underarm area or under breasts, etc.) in the summertime, especially.