You can’t mention baby powder without a vision of Johnson & Johnson’s white bottle popping up in your head. This company was founded in 1886, and in 1894, they introduced the baby powder product, which had been made using crushed talc.

This mineral is usually found in asbestos on the earth. The controversy behind baby powder started due to this mineral. The concern raised was over the fact that talc products usually contain contaminated and toxic asbestos.

In fact, as a result of this controversial issue, Johnson & Johnson has lost millions of dollars in lawsuits from customers who developed ovarian cancer as a result of using the baby powder.

Learn About the Controversy Behind Baby Powder

The History of Johnson & Johnson and Its Connection to Asbestos

So, in the late 1800s, doctors realized that there was a need for the use of sterilized medical equipment that would help prevent infections. Johnson & Johnson’s Company was created to deal with this need.

They launched many products, of which their most iconic of all was Johnson’s baby powder that was made using crushed talc, as we have mentioned above.

People went completely crazy for the baby powder, and today, Johnson & Johnson’s is one of the largest health care companies in the whole world. Actually, in 2018, they reported a sales revenue of more than $81.6 billion worldwide.

Just a year earlier, in 2017, they had already started facing lawsuits as a result of asbestos exposure that was contaminated in the talcum baby powder.

In 2019, a criminal investigation was launched by the US Justice Department to look into the matter and determine whether Johnson & Johnson had purposefully misled the public about the fibers of asbestos found in the talcum powder.

There were thousands of lawsuits that coincided with the above investigation. The department of justice criminal investigation may take several years to resolve and this could also be delayed pending civil claims

Johnson & Johnson’s Legal Troubles

For many years, people have known that sources of talc are usually naturally contaminated with asbestos, and this can cause mesothelioma. 

Mesothelioma is described as a malignant tumor that is usually caused by inhaled asbestos fibers. This forms in the linings of the abdomen, heart, and lungs.

The main symptoms of this disease include chest pains and shortness of breath. When you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, the life expectancy is around 12 months.

Now, despite these facts, Johnson & Johnson did not choose to focus on the issues caused by asbestos contamination in the baby powder, which is one of their flagship products. For this reason, their legal troubles started.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a versatile and heat resistant mineral that is found in talc. For many years, companies promoted asbestos and talc as being harmless products.

After years of medical research around products made using asbestos, the negative findings of the mineral caused it to be labeled a health risk, and the corporate-cover ups of asbestos’ cancer-causing effects were finally unveiled.

How Did Johnson & Johnson React to the Claims?

The company has always denied publicly that its talcum powder products could cause cancer. This is similar to many other companies that have been accused of using asbestos in their products.

But, according to documents that were revealed in 2017 by Johnson & Johnson’s executives, it was clear that they were aware of their liability concerning asbestos from as early as the 70s.

The documents further showed their attempts to suppress the concerns over asbestos as talc continued being mined in Italy and Vermont.

Learn About the Controversy Behind Baby Powder


As a result of all of this, juries are now holding the company accountable for all cancer-related cases as a result of asbestos in their products.

In 2019, one of Johnson & Johnson’s main suppliers – IMERYS Talc America, was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the wake of the multibillion-dollar lawsuits.