IT is a product many have turned to over and across the generations, from grandmothers to parents patting down their babies after bathtime, but Johnson & Johnson is pulling baby powder containing talc from shelves worldwide next year.


What’s going on?

Regarded as a family-friendly product since it first went on sale 127 years ago, Johnson’s Baby Powder is instantly recognisable on shelves. In its white container with the blue Johnson’s branding, it has been relied on by parents after bathing babies for decades, as well as being a bathroom staple for many adults worldwide for personal care, but it has become a controversial product in recent years.


How so?

The American multinational Johnson & Johnson (J&J) - founded in 1886 - has not sold its talc-based powder in the United States or Canada since 2020, with the product at the centre of tens of thousands of lawsuits filed alleging it caused users to develop ovarian cancer, through use for feminine hygiene, or mesothelioma, a cancer that strikes the lungs and other organs. Many of those taking legal action believe the talc is contaminated with asbestos.


It was sold elsewhere, though?

When they pulled it in the US and Canada, after what it said was “misinformation”, J&J also said it would continue to sell the talc-based baby powder in the United Kingdom and in the rest of the world.


What does the firm say now?

J&J is adamant that the talc baby powder is safe and does not cause cancer. It states: “Our position on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unchanged. We stand firmly behind the decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirms talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer.”



Demand for the company's baby powder fell due to the controversy and it will now remove it globally next year as part of a "worldwide portfolio assessment.” J&J said: "We continuously evaluate and optimise our portfolio to best position the business for long-term growth.”


What happens now?

Talc will be replaced by cornstarch, the company said, adding: “This transition will help simplify our product offerings, deliver sustainable innovation, and meet the needs of our consumers, customers and evolving global trends.”


What is talc anyway?

With a variety of uses in cosmetics and personal care products - used to absorb moisture, prevent caking, improve the feel of a product or to make facial make-up opaque, for example - talc is a mineral, mined from the earth, composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. It is a naturally occurring mineral, but so is asbestos and they may be found in close proximity in the earth.


This is an ongoing issue?

A 2018 investigation by the Reuters news agency alleged that J&J knew for decades that asbestos “lurked” in its talc products, but the global giant has always denied such claims. Last year, J&J formed a subsidiary, LTL Management, assigning its talc claims to it, but later placed the body into bankruptcy, which paused the lawsuits. Before filing, the firm faced costs of $3.5bn (£2.87bn), including one case in which 22 women were awarded a judgement of more than $2bn.