A non-governmental organization is pleading with the National Human Rights Commission in India (NHRC) to explain why the country isn’t banning talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder, after Johnson & Johnson announced May 19 that it was discontinuing sales of its iconic talcum powder in the United States and Canada, but would continue sales in other parts of the world.

J&J reported that it would no longer sell the talc-based baby powder in North America due to dwindling sales caused by mounting lawsuits alleging exposure to the talcum powder causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure. The lawsuits claim that the talc J&J uses contains impurities including asbestos, that can cause cancer.

Johnson & Johnson has denied these claims despite being hit with multi-million-dollar verdicts in several trials where juries have found J&J’s talc contributed to consumers’ cancer diagnoses, that J&J knew its talc could contain dangerous impurities, and for failing to warn consumers of the risks of exposure.

In October, the company recalled about 33,000 bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found traces of asbestos in some samples. Asbestos is a known carcinogen.

Gopal Krishna, with the Toxics Watch Alliance and Occupational Health India, in a plea to the NHRC, said J&J’s announcement to withdraw its baby powder from North America, “is aimed at safeguarding the health and human rights of residents and citizens of North America but not the residents and citizens of India.”

Much of Johnson’s Baby Powder is manufactured in India, and the product is widely used in in the country. In December 2018, India’s drug regulator, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, banned J&J from using raw materials until it could prove its talc was not contaminated with asbestos. The action was taken following a Reuters investigation that revealed Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that its talc could become contaminated with asbestos but failed to warn consumers.

Beasley Allen continues to investigate cases of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma connected to talcum powder use. For information, contact Ted Meadows and Leigh O’Dell, who serves as Co-Lead Counsel in the talc federal multidistrict litigation.

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