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Johnson & Johnson discontinues talc-based baby powder in U.S., Canada amid lawsuits

The company said the decision was made after declining sales, insisting it stands by the safety of the product in the face of suits alleging it causes cancer.
Johnson & Johnson Voluntarily Recalls Baby Powder For Asbestos Contamination
Johnson's Baby Powder.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson will discontinue the use of talc in its baby powder in the U.S. and Canada after years of legal battles over allegations that the product may have caused cancer, the company announced Tuesday.

The company insisted that even though it is pulling the product, it will continue to "vigorously defend" its safety based on decades of scientific study. Johnson & Johnson said it based the decision instead on declining interest due in part to "misinformation."

"Demand for talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising," the release said.

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Health concerns about talcum powders have prompted thousands of U.S. lawsuits by women who claim that asbestos in the powder caused their cancers. Talc is a mineral similar in structure to asbestos, which is known to cause cancer, and they are sometimes obtained from the same mines.

In January, U.S. government-led research found no strong evidence linking baby powder with ovarian cancer. Smaller studies investigating a possible link between talcum powder and cancer have had conflicting results, although most found no connection.

Johnson & Johnson pointed out in its statement that all verdicts in lawsuits that made such claims were overturned through appeal.

Talc-based powder will still be sold alongside the company's cornstarch-based product in global markets, where there is "significantly higher consumer demand." The baby powder accounts for only about 0.5 percent of the company's total U.S. consumer health business, according to the brand.