The public image has not been good for Johnson & Johnson as of late. After losing a prominent court case that their baby powder caused mesothelioma last June, they are now suffering another public relations crisis after the FDA discovered asbestos in a lot of their baby powder this Fall. A small trace amount of asbestos, 0.00002%, was found in a lot of 33,000 bottles, which were 22 ounces. All of the bottles were made and shipped to stores in the United States.
Two weeks before the FDA announced that the baby powder bottles had trace levels of asbestos, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, Alex Gorsky, had stated that the baby powder was free of asbestos. The company has been making public statements for years that their products are not causing cancer and are completely safe.
The FDA tested two separate lots of Johnson’s baby powder, with one lot testing positive and the other lot testing negative. The over 130-year-old healthcare company had its shares fall 2.9% after this news was released. After the FDA released the study results, Johnson & Johnson conducted a voluntary recall of the 33,000 bottles of baby powder where the asbestos was linked. A single sample taken from lot #22318RB was shown to have asbestos. In a statement given by the FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless, the FDA claims that they will continue to test cosmetic products for the presence of asbestos to protect consumers from the potential health risks.
As a result of the FDA tests, several prominent retailers across the United States have decided to pull the possibly tainted baby powder from their shelves. Erin Hulliberger, a spokesperson for Walmart, said that they have only taken action against products impacted by the Johnson & Johnson recall.
“Even though baby powder makes up a fraction of Johnson & Johnson’s global business, this recall hurts their image much more than their bottom line. Johnson & Johnson has been fending off lawsuits stemming from their baby powder for years,” says product liability attorney Cade Parian of The Parian Law Firm, LLC. “It is time for them to be transparent about what’s really in their product.”
Johnson & Johnson has also been recently dealing with other backlash and lawsuits as a result of products they have manufactured causing men to grow breasts. They have also faced accusations that they market painkillers to doctors, causing a spike in the opioid epidemic. Johnson & Johnson is currently facing over 15,000 lawsuits related to their talc-based powders along with regulatory and criminal disputes. Liabilities just related to baby powder disputes could end up costing the company up to $10 billion.
Other retailers have removed bottles from this lot of Johnson’s baby powder from their store shelves, as well. These stores include CVS, Target, Walgreen’s, and Rite Aid. Rite-Aid, however, put the bottles in storage in case further testing shows the bottles from the lot are safe. Anyone who has purchased baby powder from this lot can get a refund by contacting Johnson & Johnson.