Johnson & Johnson’s Talc Baby Powder Lawsuit Cost Them $700 Million

By: May Man Published: Jun 13, 2024

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has agreed to a $700 million settlement to resolve a lawsuit brought by dozens of states, accusing the pharmaceutical giant of intentionally misleading consumers about the safety of its talc-based baby powder, officials announced.

For over a century, J&J sold talc-based products before discontinuing them globally in 2023 amid thousands of lawsuits.

Army of Attorneys Against J&J

A coalition of 43 attorneys general determined that J&J failed to disclose that their talc products occasionally contained asbestos, a harmful substance linked to cancer.

Two attorneys stop to share notes during a court session

Source: Freepik

Currently, Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is primarily made from corn starch rather than talc. As part of the settlement, J&J did not admit any wrongdoing.

Landmark Settlement

“We have reached a landmark settlement with Johnson & Johnson ensuring that the company will abide by the law and take effective steps to protect consumers from potentially hazardous ingredients,” stated Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Close-up of a lawsuit document with a gavel placed on top, on a wooden desk with a pen lying beside the paper

Source: wirestock/freepik

“I’m proud to lead this coalition of 43 attorneys general to stand up for consumers’ health and truth in marketing.”

Participation from Numerous States

The litigation was spearheaded by the attorneys general of Texas, Florida, and North Carolina, with judicial approval of the settlement still pending.

Map of the United States on a globe with a small American flag laid on top

Source: Freepik

The lawsuit included participation from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington D.C., Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Consumer Product Safety

“This is a major advancement for consumer product safety,” stated Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Talc powder spilled on a document next to a stethoscope

Source: TTAVOfficial, X

This settlement is the latest in a series of payouts J&J has agreed to following years of lawsuits alleging its products caused severe, sometimes fatal, illnesses.

Previous Lawsuit

In April, a Chicago jury awarded $45 million to the family of a woman who died from mesothelioma, linked to asbestos exposure.

Talc powder on table with bottle on top

Source: AndyVermaut, X

The woman’s family claimed her frequent use of J&J’s talc-based products led to the fatal diagnosis.


Multiple Claimants

In 2020, a New Jersey court ordered J&J to pay $186 million to four plaintiffs who claimed that baby powder caused their cancer.

wooden gavel against grey background

Source: Jcomp, Freepik

More recently, an Oregon woman was awarded $260 million after alleging she developed mesothelioma from using J&J’s talc-based products, according to WTVR.


J&J’s Legal Battles

According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Johnson & Johnson continues to face tens of thousands of individual lawsuits claiming that talc-containing products led to severe health problems

SEC seal

Source: Wikimedia

Additionally, a class action lawsuit accuses the company of concealing the dangers of talc products from shareholders.


$11 Billion Set Aside for Potential Payments

Efforts by J&J to resolve the cases through bankruptcy for a subsidiary created to contain its talc-related liabilities have not been approved by courts.

A close-up of a judge’s gavel on top of money and an American flag.

Source: Towfiqu barbhuiya/Pexels

Reuters reported that up to $11 billion has been set aside for potential payments.


Ongoing Talc Litigation

“The Company continues to pursue several paths to achieve a comprehensive and final resolution of the talc litigation,” stated Erik Haas, Johnson & Johnson’s worldwide vice president of litigation.

J&J talc powder bottles on shelf

Source: wcax, X

“We will continue to address the claims of those who do not want to participate in our contemplated consensual bankruptcy resolution through litigation or settlement.”


Potential Asbestos Contamination

Talc, a naturally occurring mineral, is used in cosmetics and personal care products like baby powder and blush for its moisture-absorbing properties and to improve product texture, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

mine with asbestos

Source: Wikimedia

However, talc is sometimes found in mines with asbestos, leading to potential contamination. The FDA warns that inhalation of asbestos is linked to cancer, an issue raised since the 1970s.


J&J Denies Presence of Asbestos

The American Cancer Society acknowledges that talc containing asbestos can cause cancer if inhaled, but the link between asbestos-free talc and cancer remains unclear.

Talc powder on table with talc bottle on top

Source: NWMNBint, X

Researchers have suggested a possible connection between talc-based powders used in the genital area and ovarian cancer since the 1960s, but studies have not conclusively determined a relationship. Throughout these controversies, Johnson & Johnson has consistently denied that its baby powder contains asbestos.