Company said 33,000 bottles will be recalled amid lawsuits alleging they knew the baby powder was contaminated.
Johnson & Johnson has voluntarily recalled a single batch of its baby powder after US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulators found trace amounts of asbestos in the product. The company said 33,000 bottles of talcum powder will be recalled “out of an abundance of caution”.
The recall comes amid thousands of lawsuits alleging the company knew its baby powder was contaminated with asbestos, a carcinogen. Johnson & Johnson strenuously denied the claims. This is the first time the company has recalled its leading baby powder product.
The same day, the Arizona attorney general announced a $116m settlement against the company, related to its transvaginal mesh implants. The company is also being sued over its role in the US opioids crisis, in a challenging period for its reputation as one of the most trusted brands in the world.
Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that tests conducted by the FDA found sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination at concentrations not exceeding 0.00002% in a single bottle purchased from an online retailer. The recall applies to lot #22318RB.
The company said it could not confirm whether the sample was cross-contaminated, whether the product’s seal was intact, or whether the sample was taken from an authentic bottle of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder.
The company said it has conducted “thousands of tests over the past 40 years repeatedly to confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos”.
Although pediatricians have advised against using talcum powder on infants for decades, arguing there is a risk of inhalation and infection to babies, talcum powder has remained Johnson & Johnson’s best-known household staple. The product is made from pure talc, a mineral which often appears in veins alongside asbestos in the earth.
“Our talc comes from ore sources confirmed to meet our stringent specifications that exceed industry standards,” the company said. “Not only do we and our suppliers routinely test to ensure our talc does not contain asbestos, our talc has also been tested and confirmed to be asbestos-free by a range of independent laboratories, universities and global health authorities.”
Concerns have also been raised about the health impacts of talc itself. For decades, talc was routinely used as a dry lubricant in condoms and latex gloves, until physicians raised health concerns about talc, particularly for women.
In a series of investigations by the New York Times and Reuters, internal documents from Johnson & Johnson revealed some company executives worried about the talcum products, including possible asbestos contamination, further government regulation and public backlash over health concerns.