Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is voluntarily recalling a single lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder after it was found to have “sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination (no greater than 0.00002%) in samples from a single bottle.” The bottle was said to have been purchased from an online retailer, according to the J&J article published on October 18, 2019 on its website.
The company says the recall is being made “out of an abundance of caution” following tests done by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Nonetheless, thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the brand.
In 2018, a Reuters report alleges that the company had already previously known that its baby powder is contaminated with asbestos and did not disclose the information, but J&J has denied the claims.
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that can be found in rocks and soil. When inhaled, the asbestos fibers do not disintegrate and can be difficult to expel, thus eventually leading to organ inflammation that may cause cancer.
A very recent case study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine also shows proof that inhalation of asbestos-tainted powder could possibly cause mesothelioma, a type of cancer that commonly affects the lungs. Possibly fatal, it is usually characterized by coughing, fever and night sweats, and the accumulation of fluids around the lungs.
Asbestos contamination aside, the use of talcum powder in itself is unsafe, especially for babies and kids, as the particles may cause aspiration when inhaled and “may result in acute or chronic lung disease,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). A paper published as early as 1969 records that “at least three fatalities have been reported following the aspiration of talcum powder by infants.”
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J&J’s product recall involves only Lot #22318RB — about 33,000 bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder — which was produced and shipped in the United States in 2018. Those who have purchased products from this batch are advised to discontinue its use.
The company has also taken it upon themselves to conduct a more thorough investigation on the matter “to determine the integrity of the tested sample, and the validity of the test results,” since they are unable to confirm yet if the tested sample came from a bottle with a broken seal, and if it was authentic or counterfeit.