Dear Johnson & Johnson: For Mother’s Day, Tell Parents the Truth About Your Dangerous Baby Powder
You may have heard about the $110 million dollar settlement Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay out to a West Virginia woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using the company’s baby powder and Shower to Shower products for decades.
What you didn’t hear in that report was the word ‘asbestos’ — but asbestos is the carcinogen in J&J’s talc-based products responsible for ovarian cancer in Lois Slemp and thousands of other women. More than 3,000 similar lawsuits have been filed against the company to date. Three such lawsuits have already required multi-million dollar settlements: In addition to Slemp’s nine-figure payout, Johnson & Johnson have paid settlements of $70 and $72 million.
For many of us mothers, J&J has always been considered the gold standard for baby products. Heck, the care package the nurses sent me home with after delivering my daughter Emily had J&J baby powder in it!
As a mesothelioma widow, mother, and someone who used J&J products on her only child — I feel a responsibility to tell you what the news won’t report and the company doesn’t want you to know.
A 2014 study found asbestos in cosmetic talc and reported that studies “suggested that talc, asbestos, or both may cause cancers through vaginal exposure.” A 2012 report from the International Agency on Cancer Research (IARC) found sufficient evidence to conclude and report: “Asbestos causes mesothelioma and cancer of the lung, larynx, and ovary.” And we’re actually advised to sprinkle this stuff on our precious babies?
Now, you may be questioning how this is possible — isn’t asbestos banned anyway? Most Americans are shocked to find that asbestos remains legal and lethal in the U.S. — I know I was when my late husband Alan was diagnosed. We actually continue to import hundreds of metric tons of raw asbestos every year for manufacturing.
Without a ban, we also import asbestos-contaminated consumer goods. In 2015, more than $4 million worth of contaminated products were brought into the country and onto the shelves of our stores. Independent testing found asbestos in children’s toys and crayons in as recently as 2015.
When it comes to asbestos-contaminated talc, the risk is widespread, starting at the mines themselves. The authors of the 2014 study of asbestos in talcum powder “traced the asbestos in the talc to the mines from which it originated, into the milled grades, into the product.”
The contamination risk isn’t limited to Johnson & Johnson products, either. In 2015, Colgate-Palmolive faced multimillion-dollar lawsuits for cancer caused by their asbestos-contaminated talc products.
“Every time I test a variety of the off-the-shelf cosmetics I always find asbestos in some of the talc,” Sean Fitzgerald, one of the researches involved with the 2014 study, told the Seattle PI. “This remains a hazard to consumers that should not be ignored.”
What adds insult to injury in this upsetting situation is the fact that still, despite being found liable for the cancers of multiple women already, J&J has failed to make any sort of statement warning the public about the dangers of their products. Call me crazy, but I believe we as consumers and parents have a right to know if the products we’re buying for our children are known human carcinogens.
Many companies have begun to substitute cornstarch in their formerly talc-based products in order to mitigate the health risk, and the 2011 Material Safety Data Sheet indicates that J&J did switch to cornstarch in at least some of their baby powder products. But simply changing the product formula isn’t enough, especially with nonperishable products that many consumers keep on their bathroom shelves for years. It is vital that J&J, Colgate-Palmolive, and others come clean about the about products that talc so we can discard any old products we may still have around, begin to monitor our health if we were exposed in the past, and make avoid purchasing any products that still contain talc.
Perhaps J&J didn’t know their talc was contaminated with asbestos when they sold it. I for one would like to believe that. But they know now, and if they want to retain any trust from the mothers of America, they need to come clean and tell their customers the truth about their potentially deadly products.