Johnson & Johnson says recalled baby powder asbestos-free

Tiffany Hsu, The New York Times

Posted at Oct 30 2019 08:36 AM

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that it did not find asbestos in multiple tests of a bottle of baby powder that the Food and Drug Administration said contained trace amounts of the carcinogen.

The company had recalled 33,000 bottles of the product earlier this month after the regulator said it discovered evidence of chrysotile asbestos in a bottle bought from an online retailer. Johnson & Johnson said 15 new tests of that very bottle came up clean.

Another 48 tests of samples from the recalled lot, conducted by two third-party labs, reached the same conclusion, the company said. Johnson & Johnson is facing lawsuits from more than 15,000 plaintiffs who claim that the company’s baby powder and other talc-based products caused their cancer.

“We stand by the safety of our product,” the company said in a statement. Johnson & Johnson’s shares rose in after-hours trading Tuesday afternoon.

The company said it contacted the two labs after the recall to expedite tests of the baby powder in question. Three samples did initially test positive for asbestos, the company said in Tuesday’s statement, but after an investigation by the lab, the contamination was found to be coming from a portable air conditioner in the room.

“This finding underscores the importance of investigating any positive test result,” the company said, adding that “even when careful safeguards are followed, asbestos contamination may be introduced during sample division, storage, preparation and analysis.”

For decades, Johnson & Johnson has cast doubt on multiple findings of asbestos in its talc products, blaming poorly executed tests, unqualified scientists, similar-looking minerals and other factors. The company said that it “routinely” uses “a rigorous testing standard” to check its talc.

2019 The New York Times Company