Johnson & Johnson Faces Pressure To Impose A Global Ban On The Sale Of Talc Baby Powder

Johnson & Johnson Faces Pressure To Impose A Global Ban On The Sale Of Talc Baby Powder
Johnson & Johnson Faces Pressure To Impose A Global Ban On The Sale Of Talc Baby Powder

Johnson & Johnson is facing an attempt to force a shareholder vote to halt sales of talc-based baby powder around the world, including the United Kingdom, due to cancer concerns.


Johnson & Johnson (J&J) discontinued the sale of talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada in 2020. Baby powder sales had plummeted after US regulators discovered carcinogenic chrysotile fibers, a type of asbestos, in a sample.


The company is now facing over 34,000 lawsuits, many of which are from women who claim they used baby powder and later developed ovarian cancer as a result.


Tulipshare, a London-based investment platform that allows customers to pool shares in order to meet the threshold for submitting resolutions for shareholder votes, proposed the shareholder vote. The proposal has been submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for review ahead of J&J’s annual meeting in April.


Talc, the world’s softest mineral, is mined in several countries and used in industries ranging from paper to plastics to pharmaceuticals. Because of its astringent properties, talc is used to treat nappy rash and for other personal hygiene purposes.


However, talc deposits are occasionally contaminated with asbestos, a mineral that can cause cancer if its fibers enter the body. Corn starch can be used as a substitute.


J&J strongly denies that its baby powder is harmful, claiming that the product was only withdrawn in North America due to a drop in sales “fueled by misinformation about the product’s safety.” According to a spokesperson, a 2020 cohort study found no statistically significant increased risk of ovarian cancer with talc use.

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“We stand behind the ingredients we use in our products, and Johnson & Johnson has a rigorous testing standard in place to ensure our cosmetic talc is safe,” a spokesperson said. Not only is our talc routinely tested to ensure it is asbestos-free, but it has also been tested and confirmed to be asbestos-free by a number of independent laboratories, universities, and global health authorities.”


The onslaught of legal claims “lacks any valid scientific basis,” according to the spokesperson.


Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, J&J’s lawyers, have written to the SEC requesting that the shareholder resolution be ruled ineligible because it would affect pending lawsuits in state and federal courts in the United States and other countries, including “thousands of personal injury claims alleging that talc causes cancer.”


J&J has already spent billions of dollars on legal fees and settlements, including a $2 billion (£1.5 billion) judgment in favor of 22 ovarian cancer plaintiffs by a Missouri appeals court. J&J moved the potential liabilities for talc products into a separate company in October, which then filed for bankruptcy in a highly contentious move that could limit its financial exposure.


“It is shocking that products that we know can cause serious illness due to asbestos contamination are still available to buy in the UK, or anywhere else in the world,” he said.


“Any action taken against Johnson & Johnson, who continue to profit handsomely from the sale of this harmful substance despite being aware of its potential consequences, is welcome in my book.”