Johnson & Johnson is edging toward a global withdrawal of their talc-based baby powders from sale across the world amid rising fears that the product may present a cancer risk to users.
J&J’s talc-based baby powder was pulled from shelves across the US and Canada in 2020 after regulators discovered asbestiform carcinogenic fibers in J&J’s baby powder. The heightened consumer concern led to a decrease in sales and J&J’s withdrawal of the product from sale across North America.
In the United States, J&J faces over 34,000 lawsuits from women who claim that they have used the talc-based powder and later developed ovarian cancer.
A London-based activist investment platform, Tulipshare, is now proposing a shareholder vote on whether or not to mandate a global ban on J&J’s talc-based baby powders. Proposals for such a vote have already been submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Committee for consideration ahead of Johnson & Johnson’s annual meeting in April.
J&J — which denies that their baby powders were harmful — claims that Tulipshare’s motion to force a shareholder vote is ineligible as it would impact thousands of pending lawsuits across the U.S., which contend that talc causes cancer.
J&J denies that their talc-based powders are linked to ovarian cancer, and cite their 2020 voluntary recall due to a slump in sales “fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product”.
Despite independent testing by U.S. regulators and by labs hired by J&J that found asbestiform fibers, a spokesperson for J&J said, “Not only is our talc routinely tested to ensure it does not contain asbestos, but our talc has also been tested and confirmed to be asbestos-free by a range of independent laboratories, universities and global health authorities.”
J&J has spent billions on litigation costs and settlements, including a $2 Billion judgment by a Missouri appeals court in favor of 22 plaintiffs who suffered from ovarian cancer. In October, J&J moved the potential liabilities for talc products into a separate company, which then entered bankruptcy in a highly controversial move in order to shield its assets.