You already won't find Johnson & Johnson baby powder containing talc on most store shelves in the US and Canada, but now the company is nixing the ingredient in that product worldwide, after tens of thousands of complaints were filed alleging it caused cancer in consumers who used it. The AP reports that the talcum powder found in one of the company's most well-known products will be replaced with cornstarch, with the swap set to take place sometime next year. The New York Times notes that J&J has long sold baby powder with cornstarch around the globe, ever since it developed that version in 1980, and that it hasn't sold the talc-based product in North America since 2020. Now, the company simply wants to expand upon that.
"It's kind of the no-brainer solution," says Alex Scranton of the environmental advocacy group Women's Voices for the Earth, citing how easy it is to find cornstarch, and how affordable it is—in addition to not being "toxic." Although most scientific research thus far hasn't turned up evidence that the talc is harmful, consumers have been backing away from using baby powder with talc in recent years, succumbing to what J&J calls "misinformation" about the product, reports the BBC. Individuals claim in their lawsuits, which number more than 40,000, that the talc-based baby powder is contaminated with asbestos and that they developed ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, a type of cancer that impacts the lungs and other organs, after using the powder.
On Thursday, J&J said in a statement that the move to cornstarch was simply a routine reevaluation of its product lineup, per the Times. "This transition will help simplify our product offerings, deliver sustainable innovation, and meet the needs of our consumers, customers, and evolving global trends," the company notes. It also says it supports the "decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world," continuing to insist that the baby powder, which has been sold for almost 130 years, "is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer." (Read more Johnson & Johnson stories.)