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Johnson & Johnson To Settle Baby Powder Investigation, To Reportedly Pay $700 Million

The settlement, however, doesn't resolve ongoing cancer-related lawsuits set for 2024 trials.
Cover Image Source: Johnson and Johnson baby powder | Getty Images | Photo by Justin Sullivan
Cover Image Source: Johnson and Johnson baby powder | Getty Images | Photo by Justin Sullivan

Johnson & Johnson has reached a tentative settlement to resolve investigations by more than 40 states into whether the company misled patients about the safety of its baby powder and other talc-based products in its SKU range. However, this settlement does not resolve the tens and thousands of lawsuits, some of which are slated to go to trial in 2024 alleging that the talc-based product can be cancer-causing.

"Consistent with the plan we outlined last year, the company continues to pursue several paths to achieve a comprehensive and final resolution of the talc litigation," Erik Haas, J&J's worldwide vice president of litigation, said in a statement.

Johnson and Johnson baby powder | Getty Images | Justin Sullivan
Image Source: Johnson and Johnson baby powder | Getty Images | Photo by Justin Sullivan

As reported by Vogue, the J&J baby talc tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, known to be carcinogenic. The company is now dealing with thousands of lawsuits from women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer because of the product. However, the company continues to stand by its claim, emphasizing confidence in the safety of its talc-based products.

One such heartbreaking story is that of Darlene Coker, brought to light by Reuters. Coker was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer that affects the lungs along with other organs. A particularly uncommon and lethal form of cancer prompted her to seek legal counsel. Herschel Hobson, a personal injury lawyer, was approached by the individual suspecting that the Johnson's Baby Powder, a product she had used throughout her life, might be the cause.

Hobson, aware of the frequent coexistence of carcinogenic asbestos and talc, suspected a potential connection. Consequently, the affected individual filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, contending that the presence of "poisonous talc" in the company's cherished product was the culprit behind her disease.


The company has announced a shift from talc to cornstarch in the production of baby powder. Additionally, evidence surfaced indicating that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was aware of asbestos presence in their baby powder but took no corrective action. According to Reuters, the company failed to disclose to the FDA that multiple tests conducted by various labs between 1972 and 1975 revealed asbestos in its talc.

J&J consistently denies any asbestos contamination in their talc, asserting it to be asbestos-free. The lawsuit initiated by Hobson was eventually dropped, with the lawyer acknowledging the challenges of proving the case as the plaintiff, stating, "When you are the plaintiff, you have the burden of proof. We didn’t have it."

Johnson & Johnson | Getty Images | Mario Tama
Image Source: Johnson & Johnson | Getty Images | Photo by Mario Tama

Furthermore, the company reported its quarterly results on Tuesday, and they were just a little above Wall Street's expectations. J&J has also agreed to pay around $700 million to settle an investigation regarding the marketing of its talc products. The company's net earnings reached $4.1 billion – a substantial 28% increase from $3.2 billion in the same quarter of the previous year.

It reported total sales of $21.40 billion for the last quarter of 2023, reflecting a 7.3% increase from the same period in 2022. The fourth-quarter adjusted earnings per share stood at $2.29. These results follow J&J's separation from its consumer health unit, Kenvue, a strategic move marking the company's most significant shake-up in its nearly 140-year history.