Johnson & Johnson has run full-page ads in the major newspapers about talc in its baby powder. Litigation against the company by women who used the used has resulted in claims (some of which have been successful) that asbestos fibers (asbestos is found near talc deposits, and talc is used in baby and other powders) caused their various forms of cancer. The ads say that if there were any danger and the baby powder were unsafe, it would be off the “shelves immediately.”
J & J has carried a decades long brand reputation because of its voluntary recall of $150 million in Tylenol following the cyanide poisoning deaths caused by individual taking Tylenol capsules that had been tampered with to put cyanide in the analgesic. The company is studied as a wonder in social responsibility.
However, there is compelling internal evidence (obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to the FDA), and there is a common thread of baby powder use by the female plaintiffs bringing the suits. The issue will float out there for some time, but J & J offers information to counter the allegations in its ads (factsabouttalc.com.) and asks the public to decide for itself. The site is interesting, but it does minimize the findings of the studies that find a connection. The site does discusses the internal memos uncovered through the FOIA request — documents that disclose a finding of asbestos in J & J products. The company has explanations for the internal memo and conclusions about asbestos, but that section of the website seems to end abruptly in its discussion of the issues.
Who knows? Presently, the legal and PR battles continue. While we wait, perhaps cutting the use of talc powder might be a prudent and safe action.