Johnson & Johnson Recalls 33,000 Bottles of Baby Powder After Finding Cancer-Causing Asbestos in Product

Johnson & Johnson is recalling thousands of bottles of its popular baby powder after health inspectors found traces of asbestos in samples taken from bottles purchased online.

Johnson & Johnson announced in a press release Friday that it was recalling the bottles of powder “out of an abundance of caution.” The recall is voluntary, and it’s limited to one lot of baby powder—around 33,000 bottles, according to NBC News—that was produced and shipped in the U.S. in 2018.

According to the release, a test conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found the presence of sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination (no greater than 0.00002%) in samples from a single bottle purchased online. (Johnson & Johnson didn’t say which online store it came from.) Johnson & Johnson pointed out that the reported levels were “low” but decided to recall Lot #22318RB of Johnson’s Baby Powder, which is the lot from which the tested sample was taken.

Johnson & Johnson said the company has started an investigation and is working with the FDA to determine the “integrity” of the sample and the “validity of test results.” The company also said that, at this time, they can’t confirm if cross-contamination of the sample caused a false positive, whether the sample was taken from a bottle with an intact seal or whether the sample was prepared in a controlled environment, or whether the tested product is authentic or counterfeit.

Johnson & Johnson also stressed that they have a “rigorous testing standard in place to ensure its cosmetic talc is safe,” noting that “years of testing, including the FDA’s own testing on prior occasions—and as recently as last month—found no asbestos. Thousands of tests over the past 40 years repeatedly confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos.”

Why is asbestos so dangerous?

Asbestos is a commercial name given to six naturally occurring fibrous minerals, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Asbestos has been used for decades in insulation and fireproofing materials, automotive brakes and textile products, and cement and wallboard materials.

But, when it’s handled, asbestos can separate into microscopic particles that are easily inhaled. People who have been exposed to asbestos have developed life-threatening diseases like asbestosis (a chronic lung disease caused by asbestos exposure), lung cancer, and mesothelioma, NIOSH says. The use of asbestos and asbestos products has decreased over time, but it can still be found in some older homes and offices.

Even more: Friday's recall comes after months of Johnson & Johnson denying that its baby powder contains asbestos. Johnson & Johnson is facing 15,500 lawsuits, according to NBC News, that clam the company’s baby powder and other talc-based products caused them to develop cancer, including mesothelioma and ovarian cancer, two cancers that have been linked to asbestos exposure.

Last year, a New York Times investigation found that executives at Johnson & Johnson were aware for up to 50 years of possible asbestos contamination in its baby powder but didn’t alert consumers. Reuters also published a similar investigation on the company.

Johnson & Johnson is urging people who have it to stop using Johnson’s Baby Powder with Lot #22318RB (according to Johnson & Johnson, you can find that lot number on the back, side or bottom of the product or embossed on the crimped end of the tube), and to contact the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Care Center at www.johnsonsbaby.com or call 866-565-2229 for a refund.

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