You’ve probably read news stories about juries awarding large verdicts in cases alleging that Johnson’s Baby Powder can cause ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. But you may not have read or heard this: of all the verdicts against Johnson & Johnson that have been through the appellate process, every one has been overturned. Further, there have also been several trials where juries have concluded that Johnson & Johnson’s product was not responsible for the plaintiffs’ cancer, and in other instances, judges have dismissed cases outright, based on their own review of the facts.
The stories of anyone suffering from any form of cancer are tragic, and we sympathize deeply with these patients and their families, and appreciate that they’re seeking answers.
The science and the facts, however, show that their illnesses were not caused by their use of our talcum-based products.
We’re a company deeply committed to the good health and long life of every person on earth. We’re sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents, just like you. We use our products on ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. We understand we have been trusted with a great responsibility, and we treat that responsibility with great care.
Decades of independent scientific testing has confirmed that our products are safe and are not contaminated with asbestos. If we believed that our talc was unsafe, it would not be on the shelves.
We recognize the anxiety and confusion these cases have caused, and that the many people around the world who have used and continue to use talc-based products have questions. There will also be more cases, and more discussion.
This site is here to share the facts about talc and these cases, to help you and your family understand why we’re continuing to sell Johnson’s Baby Powder, and why we’re continuing to defend our position so vigorously in the courtroom.
We are careful at every stage of our process to ensure that the cosmetic talc used in our products is not contaminated with asbestos. Only about 5% of talc is used for cosmetic purposes. The rest is used in industrial materials such as roofing, building materials, or ceramics. Before we decide that any talc mine is qualified to be a source for our talc products, we evaluate the mine with expert geologists who know all the aspects of how and where mineral deposits form.
Governmental and academic reports on the mines where we have sourced our talc for Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States and Canada confirm that these talc ores used in our product did not contain asbestos.
In the 1970s, preliminary and erroneous reports based on unreliable testing methodology were recounted in the media suggesting that there could be asbestos contamination in our talc. Scientists from all over the world, including those working for the FDA, studied the issue for years and ultimately concluded that Johnson & Johnson’s talc was not contaminated with asbestos.
As technology advanced, scientists and regulators agreed on methodologies to reliably and accurately test for asbestos in talc. Johnson & Johnson not only meets those standards but exceeds them by using state of the art methodologies to reliably and accurately test for asbestos in talc. This means we’re examining our talc not only through traditional microscopes, but also with electron microscopes that permit extremely high magnifications.
In the 1970s and 1980s, we gathered samples every hour from our talc processing facilities so that we could test it for asbestos. Samples of ground talc ore were combined and tested at least every month. Samples of this talc that was ready to be packaged were combined and tested at least every other week. And as an additional audit, every quarter, those samples were also tested again. Today, we require every one of our suppliers to certify that each shipment of talc has been tested using standards exceeding what the FDA recommends and that no asbestos is detected.
There was—and remains—a point to all this testing: The more you repeat a test, the higher level of certainty and assurance you get from that test. If you just test it once, you’d only have a certain level of assurance. Testing week after week over years with the same result affords a high level of confidence that our product does not contain asbestos.
Allegations that our talc could pose a harm to consumers is a concern Johnson & Johnson took very seriously, and we asked a number of independent institutions, laboratories, and universities to test our talc to prove it was free of asbestos. These tests provided evidence that our talc does not contain asbestos. Those institutions include:
The FDA’s mission is to protect the public health, including ensuring that cosmetics are safe and properly labeled. Over many decades, the FDA has repeatedly found allegations of asbestos in talc—including specifically Johnson & Johnson’s talc—to be unfounded when using state of the art methods.
In the 1970s, the FDA conducted a four-year intensive investigation into the issue of whether cosmetic talc products, including Johnson & Johnson’s, were contaminated with asbestos. As a result of this investigation, the FDA concluded that “none of the talcs used in these products [including Johnson & Johnson products] contained asbestos as a contaminant.”
In 1986, FDA stated there is no reason to put a warning label on cosmetic talc, citing the results of its studies and ongoing surveillance. The FDA stated that even “the risk from a worst case estimate of exposure to asbestos from cosmetic talc would be less than the risk from environmental background levels of exposure to asbestos … over a lifetime.”
From 2009-2010, the FDA tested raw talc from four talc suppliers—including Johnson & Johnson’s suppliers for our Baby Powder and a previously-divested product Shower to Shower — and confirmed that none contained asbestos.
Again in 2014, when investigating correlation between talc and ovarian cancer, the FDA stated that there was no conclusive evidence that use of talc had any causal relationship with cancer.
Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder and its prior product Shower to Shower, have been found to be safe to use by the most reliable scientific studies.
Ovarian Cancer: Three major independent cohort studies that followed more than 80,000 women who used talcum powder over a period of at least 6 to 24 years to determine if talcum powder use for feminine hygiene causes ovarian cancer concluded that the use of talc is not associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer. Prospective cohort studies are a well-accepted, highly reliable way to investigate whether there is an association between the use of, or exposure to, a product and a disease. In this type of study, groups of people are asked questions about different possible risk factors, including use of certain products, and then followed going forward for a period of time to collect relevant data. Cohort studies have helped scientists understand the link between smoking and lung cancer, high cholesterol and heart disease, and many other health topics we consider common knowledge today.
Some studies, called case-control studies have shown a small statistical association between ovarian cancer and talc use, while other similarly designed case-control studies have shown no association between talc use and ovarian cancer. Experts are skeptical of these case-control studies because the results are inconsistent, and when these studies show small positive results it could be due to limitations of the study design. The limitations of these studies include “recall bias,” which is when people with a disease are more likely to remember things in their past than people without a disease. In these case-control studies, the women know they have ovarian cancer, so will try hard to remember anything that might be important to why they got this terrible disease. This can artificially make it look like women with cancer used more talcum powder, when actually it is because they were better at remembering what their feminine hygiene habits had been over the years. Large, prospective studies are considered far more reliable, partly because no woman knows she will get ovarian cancer later—so they would not have any recall bias, and overall no association between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer has been found in these studies.
Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma is a type of cancer associated primarily with exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in the environment, and small quantities of its fibers are omnipresent in the air.
There are no sound scientific studies indicating that inhalation of the cosmetic talc causes mesothelioma. In fact, studies of thousands of people who were exposed to talc on a daily basis—through their work mining and milling talcum powder, show that none developed mesothelioma. For example, there are studies of nearly 2000 miners and millers associated with a talc mine used by Johnson & Johnson that followed the workers employed between 1921 and 1950, and between 1946 and 1974, and compared the mortality of those workers with the control populations. These have been repeatedly updated, as recently as 2017, and continue to demonstrate that none of the miners or millers developed mesothelioma.
Moreover, large-scale reports on patients who had a medical procedure done called talc pleurodesis—where talc is actually injected into their lungs—found that none developed mesothelioma.
The first high profile trial related to these claims was in 2013, where plaintiffs’ counsel alleged that use of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Johnson & Johnson’s former product Shower to Shower caused a woman to develop ovarian cancer. While the jury found against the company, it also did not award any compensation.
Since then, there have been several additional trials where juries have awarded significant verdicts against Johnson & Johnson. Each of these that have been heard on appeal have been overturned.
Several courts have also found that there is no proof of a link between cosmetic talc use and ovarian cancer.
Following those decisions, trial lawyers filing these cases have since shifted their theory, alleging that Johnson & Johnson’s talc contains asbestos. (The first mesothelioma case was tried in the fall of 2017).
These latest claims harken back to preliminary and erroneous reports in the media in the 1970’s that claimed to detect asbestos in talc based on unreliable methodology. After those reports, an investigation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration as well as independent testing contributed to the development of more reliable testing methodologies and confirmed that there was no asbestos in our talcum powder products. Plaintiffs’ attorneys are seeking to resurrect an issue that has already been resolved.
Several of these cases, which are based in part on that earlier information from the 1970s, have already gone to trial. In some cases, the juries have voted in favor of Johnson & Johnson; in others, juries have not been able to reach a verdict; in others, the juries have voted in favor of the plaintiffs— including awarding some very large dollar amounts. Johnson & Johnson is planning to appeal any verdict against the company. We believe that we have strong factual grounds on appeal to overturn these verdicts.
from the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled in dismissing a case in September 2016 that: “Plaintiffs experts fail to demonstrate that the data or information used were soundly and reliably generated and are of a type reasonably relied upon by comparable experts …No witness for Plaintiffs ventured to articulate just how it is that talc in the ovaries, or, what it is about talc in the ovaries, that sets off a chain of events which purportedly causes ovarian cancer.”
of the Superior Court of California concluded after a trial in October 2017 that: “the Court is of the firm conclusion that the evidence of specific causation is not sufficient to support the verdict,” because Plaintiffs’ counsel failed to show that “talc ‘more probably than not’ causes cancer.”
Numerous leading independent institutions, laboratories, universities and governmental agencies have all concluded that there is no asbestos in our cosmetic talc products.
So, with all of this testing, how are plaintiff trial lawyers claiming that there is asbestos in our product?
They rely on testimony from witnesses they’ve hired to support their claims with suspect facts in disagreement with independent third parties.
For example, witnesses may use flawed scientific methods to test the talc. One of these witnesses has admitted that he would call something he found asbestos “even though it’s not.”
As another example, they may be testing bottles that may have been contaminated after purchase. One witness tested four bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder purchased off the shelf from a store. Each tested negative for asbestos. Yet, when he tested bottles received from other sources — many directly from plaintiff trial lawyers purchased on eBay — he claimed some tested positive. A California court recently prevented this witness from presenting this evidence at trial because they could not confirm the samples were not contaminated.
Another witness who is currently hired by plaintiff trial lawyers to testify that Johnson’s talc causes mesothelioma, had testified in earlier cases that studies showing Johnson’s talc was not associated with mesothelioma were entirely reliable.
Our test records—repeated over decades, at levels that surpass government and industry standards—have consistently shown that Johnson’s cosmetic talc does not contain asbestos.
Plaintiff trial lawyers, however, intentionally create confusion by presenting company documents out of context. In court, cherry-picked portions of historic documents are presented to suggest that they show prior findings of asbestos despite our record of extensive testing of our products. Often, these documents are not related to talc that was used in Johnson & Johnson’s products at all. For example, they point to one document that indicates the presence of asbestos, but that same document clearly states that the asbestos was only related to talc used in industrial materials. Or, they point to a document that shows asbestos in unidentified samples of commercial talc, while ignoring another document revealing that all the Johnson & Johnson samples were found to be uncontaminated with asbestos. Or, they point to a document that shows that there was asbestos in the samples but omit the fact that those samples were purposefully spiked with asbestos for testing purposes.
Plaintiff trial lawyers claim that there was a conspiracy inside Johnson & Johnson to intentionally sell products that we knew contained asbestos. This claim is false. In fact, in order for this accusation to be true, dozens of federal and state government agencies, independent laboratories, scientists, and major universities that tested our products would have also had to have conspired together over the course of 50 years to withhold this information.
Today there are more than 10,000 pending cases, and Johnson & Johnson is committed to defending them based on the strong scientific evidence showing that talc does not cause cancer.
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*Johnson & Johnson is publicly presenting on this website documents provided by one or more of the Johnson & Johnson companies that have been used as evidence in trials. These trial exhibits are not confidential, although some may still be stamped with confidentiality branding. We have made efforts to provide the exhibits in the form they were used at trial, (e.g., with highlighting and/or other markings), which may not reflect the way in which they were maintained by the company. This website will be updated periodically.