Cannes-Do Festival Banner
Modern Marketing Brand Strategy

Cancer scare pushes Johnson & Johnson toward global talcum powder ban

By John Glenday | Reporter

Johnson & Johnson


crisis pr article

February 7, 2022 | 3 min read

Healthcare multinational Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is edging toward a global withdrawal of its talcum-based baby powders from sale amid fears the product may present a cancer risk.

Johnson’s Baby Powder was voluntarily removed from store shelves across North America in 2020 after regulators discovered traces of carcinogenic fibres, a form of asbestos, in a sample taken back in 2019. The resulting PR crisis precipitated a slump in sales so severe that J&J felt compelled to withdraw the product from sale the following year, although it remains available in the rest of the world – including the UK.

The latest marketing news and insights straight to your inbox.

Get the best of The Drum by choosing from a series of great email briefings, whether that’s daily news, weekly recaps or deep dives into media or creativity.

Sign up
Johnson & Johnson

Johnson’s Baby Powder was voluntarily removed from store shelves across North America in 2020

Now activist investment platform Tulipshare proposes to upend that status quo by forcing a shareholder vote on whether or not to mandate a global ban. Proposals for such a vote have already been submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Committee for consideration ahead of J&J’s next annual meeting in April.

The North American scare has sparked an avalanche of lawsuits from women claiming to have developed ovarian cancer from using the powder, but J&J has dismissed the backlash as a product of widespread “misinformation.”

A spokesperson for the healthcare giant said: “We stand behind the ingredients we use in our products, and Johnson & Johnson has a rigorous testing standard in place to ensure our cosmetic talc is safe. Not only is our talc routinely tested to ensure it does not contain asbestos, but our talc has also been tested and confirmed to be asbestos-free by a range of independent laboratories, universities and global health authorities.”

J&J’s lawyers argue that Tulipshare’s motion is ineligible because it would impact thousands of pending lawsuits across the US, which contend that talc causes cancer.

Modern Marketing Brand Strategy

Content created with:

More from Modern Marketing

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +