The island country of Sri Lanka has halted imports of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products until the company can prove that its talc-containing products are not contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos.
The news comes just weeks after federal authorities in neighboring India collected samples of talcum powder from two India-based Johnson & Johnson facilities to test for asbestos. That inspection was initiated after a Reuters investigation uncovered documents that showed Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that the talc it used in its products contained asbestos. The company never informed federal authorities in the U.S., nor did it warn consumers of the risk.
Asbestos is a mineral mined from the earth in much the same fashion and location as talc. Its microscopic fibers are durable and fire resistant, and were widely used in construction, shipbuilding and friction materials, but its use was restricted in the U.S. – and banned in more than 60 countries – after asbestos was linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a rare but deadly form of cancer that forms in the lining of internal organs like the lungs, abdomen and chest. It can take decades for asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma to develop. Once diagnosed, mesothelioma is typically fatal within 12 to 24 months.
Johnson & Johnson faces nearly 12,000 lawsuits alleging its talcum powder products like Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Several of the lawsuits name asbestos as the culprit. Johnson & Johnson continues to claim its talcum powders are safe.