J&J to test whether talc product with asbestos is counterfeit

Johnson & Johnson has been fighting a rearguard action against claims its talc products contain harmful asbestos for years, and has been rocked by an FDA study which found “sub-trace” levels of the substance in a Baby Powder product.

The company has kicked off a voluntary recall of one lot of its Baby Powder bottles produced and shipped in the US last year, whilst also launching an investigation into the whether the offending product is genuine or counterfeit.

People who have purchased bottle of Johnson's Baby Powder with the lot number 22318RB, a production run which included 33,000 bottles, are advised to discontinue using the product and can contact the company for a refund.

Testing by the US regulator found levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination in samples from a bottle purchased online, according to J&J, which says it is also investigating whether the product was unsealed and may have been tampered with.

It also said that testing by the FDA as recently as a month ago found no asbestos in its talc products. The latest test on the online-bought product found an asbestos level of 0.00002 per cent, while a second Baby Powder sample from a different lot tested negative for asbestos.

The FDA said it stands by its tests, pointing out that during talc mining “if…sites are not selected carefully and steps are not taken to purify the talc ore sufficiently, the talc may be contaminated with asbestos.”

Asbestos is a known carcinogen that has been linked to mesothelioma, and aggressive form of lung cancer, and J&J has been hit by a number of lawsuits over the years claiming that its talc products were responsible for cancer.

Last year it was ordered to pay $417m to one plaintiff who blamed it for her cervical cancer, but a few months ago won the right to a retrial on appeal.

The talc used in J&J’s products is sourced from mines in China by Imerys Talc America, a subsidiary of French company Imerys SA that is also a defendant in some of the talc litigation that it still ongoing in the US.

Image of talc mine by philippeelusse via Pixabay

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