PHILADELPHIA (CNN) — Johnson & Johnson is abandoning a product that it may be most identified with and has been selling for more than 100 years — talc-based baby powder. The company said on its website Tuesday that it had re-evaluated its products in light of the novel coronavirus in March and stopped shipping hundreds of items in the United States and Canada.
The purpose was to place a priority on its high-demand products and to make room for social distancing at its manufacturing and distribution facilities.
The company said it was permanently discontinuing about 100 products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder. This will only impact sales in the US and Canada. It will continue to sell its products in other markets. The company says there has been a decline in demand for the powder.
The company does have a cornstarch-based baby powder that will remain on the market.
Johnson & Johnson said it remains confident in the safety of the product, but there have been tens of thousands of lawsuits filed by women who have developed ovarian cancer after regular talcum powder use.
The cases are in various stages in courtrooms around the country. A handful of talcum powder companies have put warning labels on their products, but Johnson & Johnson argued such a label would be confusing, because it stood by its product.
Some scientific studies have shown that women do have an increased risk of ovarian cancer with talc use in the genital area, but others do not.
Most studies suggest more research is needed.
A separate set of lawsuits tied the product to mesothelioma. Scientists in those trials testified that they found asbestos in samples of the product. The company argued that its product was asbestos-free. Talc is often mined near asbestos, but since the 1970s, talc used in all consumer products has been required to be asbestos-free.
The company said stores can continue selling its existing inventory until it runs out.
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