Many times baby powders gets applied to the most intimate places. But did you know that Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder may have been contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen, from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Now the U.S. Justice Department has subpoenaed J&J to find out the extent of these allocations.
Cancer and Baby Powder
Talc and asbestos have a similar mineral composition and are therefore found near each other in nature. Since 1957, J&J has known that many of the mines that they acess to get their talc from contain traces of asbestos. Asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma – a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs – and is most commonly found in men who have worked in construction, naval yards, and in other occupations where asbestos-based products were used. Some doctors and scientists believe that women who are diagnosed may have mesothelioma due to inhaling talcum products that had asbestos in it.
Baby powder has also been linked to ovarian cancer. One study found that talc particles were present in approximately 75% of the tumors they surveyed. Another study determined that women who apply talc products to the genital area have a 30-60% greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. It’s thought that the talc particles can travel up the fallopian tubes, settle in the ovaries, and then cause an irritation in the ovaries which may lead to cancerous cell growth.
By the early 1970’s, the U.S. government started banning products that contained asbestos; talcum powder made this list in 1973. However, just because it was banned didn’t mean that all talcum powder was tested asbestos free. One of the catalysts for J&J’s being subpoenaed by the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was a special report that was published on December 14, 2018 which stated,
“A Reuters examination of many of those documents, as well as deposition and trial testimony, shows that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.”
Over 13,000 lawsuits have been filed against J&J by women who have used their talcum powder products and were later diagnosed with mesothelioma or ovarian cancer. J&J has denied these claims and has continued to state that “decades of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer.”
The SEC plans to review the subpoenaed documents to analyze how the talc was tested and if any asbestos was found during those tests between the 1970s to the early 2000s. U.S. Democratic Senator Patty Murray also wishes to see how J&J, “presented that information to regulators and consumers.”