Johnson & Johnson Recalls Baby Powder After Asbestos Is Found

October 18, 2019 Updated: October 18, 2019

Johnson & Johnson said it voluntarily recalling a single lot of its baby powder in the United States out of an “abundance of caution.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered trace levels of asbestos, which is carcinogenic in humans, in a single bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder that was bought online.

In a statement on Friday, J&J wrote the recall comes after an FDA “test indicating the presence of sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination (no greater than 0.00002%) in samples from a single bottle purchased from an online retailer.”

The firm attempted to downplay the FDA finding, saying that “despite the low levels reported” and “full cooperation and collaboration” with the agency, the recall was initiated.

The Johnson & Johnson logo
The Johnson & Johnson logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, on May 29, 2019. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

J&J said it then implemented an investigation into the matter, saying it is now working with the FDA to reveal the integrity of the sample that was tested.

Following an initial investigation, the firm wrote that it “cannot confirm if cross-contamination of the sample caused a false positive,” it “cannot confirm whether the sample was taken from a bottle with an intact seal or whether the sample was prepared in a controlled environment,” and it also “cannot confirm whether the tested product is authentic or counterfeit.”

J&J said the recalled lot was identified as #22318RB and involves 33,000 bottles sold by an unidentified retailer.

Ernie Knewitz, a spokesman, told the New York Times that it was the first time a lot of baby powder was recalled.

Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder line a drugstore shelf in New York on Oct. 15, 2015. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson/File Photo)
A bottle of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder is seen in a photo illustration taken in New York on Feb. 24, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Segar)

After the recall was announced, the New Jersey-based company’s stock took a hit on Friday morning. As of 10 a.m. ET, the stock was down by 3.5 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.

J&J faces several thousand lawsuits about products containing talc.

The firm has repeatedly stated that its talc products are safe and that decades of studies have shown them to be asbestos-free. They also said the products don’t cause cancer.

The firm wrote that “rigorous testing standard in place to ensure its cosmetic talc is safe and 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.”

Asbestos: Where Does It Come From?

Asbestos is used to refer to six naturally occurring silicate minerals, and they’re composed of thin, fibrous crystals. According to Asbestos.com, exposure is linked to “several cancers and diseases, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.”

“Although asbestos strengthens and fireproofs materials, it is banned in many countries. Asbestos is not banned in the United States,” it said, adding, “Pure asbestos is an effective insulator, and it can be used in cloth, paper, cement, plastic and other materials to make them stronger. But when someone inhales or ingests asbestos dust, the mineral fibers can become forever trapped in their body.”

The primary exporters of asbestos are China, Russia, and Kazakhstan, the website says.

In June, the FDA issued a recall on June 6 for the Beauty Plus Global Contour Effects Palette 2 and Claire’s JoJo Siwa Makeup Set.

“Beauty Plus Global Contour Effects Palette 2, Batch No. S1603002/PD-C1179; Claire’s JoJo Siwa Makeup Set, SKU #888711136337, Batch/Lot No. S180109 because they tested positive for asbestos. Last week both Beauty Plus and Claire’s recalled their respective products, and consumers who have these batches/Lots of Claire’s or Beauty Plus products should stop using them,” the FDA wrote.

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