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JOHNSON & JOHNSON BABY POWDER, TALC, LAWSUITS AND A LEGAL DANCE

Johnson & Johnson's literally dodgy legal strategy re: talc-related lawsuits explained; what are we supposed to think? More importantly, what are we supposed to do?
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Johnson & Johnson has initiated a literally dodgy legal strategy to deal with current and future lawsuits in relation to their talc-based baby powder.

Johnson & Johnson has initiated a literally dodgy legal strategy to deal with current and future lawsuits in relation to their talc-based baby powder.

Lawsuits that result in massive awarded damages don't prove that talc in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder causes cancer, despite studies that suggest a link. The movie-worthy legal move Johnson & Johnson has employed to halt pending and future litigation and minimize damage payouts doesn't prove talc in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder causes cancer either. But it sure does make the company look very, very bad.

JOHNSON & JOHNSON BABY POWDER: NO MORE TALC

You might have heard that as of 2020, J&J baby powder sold in North America is made with cornstarch instead of talc, and that, despite insistence that there is no evidence that talc in their product causes cancer, the company will discontinue talc-based baby powder globally as of 2023

That nytimes.com article from just this past August also notes that Johnson & Johnson talc-based baby powder is still available in discount stores in addition to other parts of the world. The story also highlights the corporation's legal manoeuvre, and that, in response to an appeal on behalf of plaintiffs to prevent the "Texas Two-Step," as it's nicknamed, a hearing on the J&J filing takes place this month.

JOHNSON & JOHNSON: WHEN BANKRUPTCY ISN'T A BANKRUPTCY

Johnson & Johnson replaced talc with cornstarch in baby powder sold in North America in 2020, and will stop selling talc-based baby powder anywhere in the world in 2023.

Johnson & Johnson replaced talc with cornstarch in baby powder sold in North America in 2020, and will stop selling talc-based baby powder anywhere in the world in 2023.

The legal trickery strategy Johnson & Johnson initiated is actually simply called a divisional merger, and allows a company to "divide into two or more entities, including when facing extremely expensive litigation," according to this newyorker.com exposé, Johnson & Johnson and a New War on Consumer Protection. That new entity can assume the entire liability that plagues the corporation, then declare bankruptcy, effectively halting ongoing and future lawsuits... all within 72 hours of its creation, apparently. How's that for literally dodgy?

According to a bloomberg.com story from November 2021, Johnson & Johnson has been the subject of lawsuits related to talc, asbestos and cancer since 2016; by October 2021, 40 thousand lawsuits had been filed against the company.

That same story, Unsealed Emails Show How J&J Shaped Reports on Talc's Links to Cancer, also notes "the litigation has mushroomed to the point where J&J officials said they were forced to put a newly created unit into bankruptcy in hopes of corralling current and future cases."

SO, IS CLEAN BEAUTY THE BETTER WAY?

Does all this mean Johnson & Johnson is a terrible corporation of sociopathic executives that care nothing for the health of the consumers – mostly female – who buy their products? Or are execs doing what they must to protect the company, with its more than 141,000 employees, 250 or so subsidiaries (including Janssen Pharmaceutical and Johnson & Johnson MedTech), and operations in 60 countries (according to fortune.com)? Should we now boycott all J&J products, such as Neutrogena, Aveeno, Neostrata, Band-Aid, Motrin and Reactine? Do we have to pitch everything that isn't considered "clean?"

I can't answer that for anyone who isn't me, obviously. Overall, "clean" is too much about misinfomarketing and fear mongering for me to take it seriously – it's as dirty as the conventional business of beauty can be. The fact is that "clean" ingredients aren't necessarily any safer than many of the ingredients the movement demonizes. Even water is toxic in a high enough dose.

APPROVALS VS REGULATIONS

The newyorker.com and bloomberg.com pieces both note the FDA's limited funding and staff (just 30 employees); obviously something has to change there, and likely at Health Canada as well. But what comes across as a huge lack of restrictions in the cosmetics industry is tempered by laws that are in place. Brands don't need FDA approvals on most ingredients or formulas, but they are subject to FDA regulations intended to ensure consumer safety.

In Canada, "by law, manufacturers cannot sell cosmetics that contain any ingredient that may cause injury when used according to the directions on the label and under normal use." Yet things happen. But would tighter restrictions make a real difference in cases like these? Would they catch contamination issues after a product is already on the market?

I'll continue to use Neostrata, a brand I loved when I knew only the Canadian-owned arm of the business before J&J bought it in 2016; the products are still great, still effective, and still safe. Aveeno and Neutrogena, even Band-Aid and Listerine will also remain part of my self-care, and I depend too much on Reactine to give it up either.

The New Yorker story notes that "Johnson & Johnson’s most recent quarterly report shows twenty-four billion dollars in sales." I know that my support of the above brands contributes to that. These reports, though, that include mention of past J&J research on inmates as well as several other WTF strategies undertaken by the corporation, are so damning that I can't help hoping that J&J is denied that Texas Two-Step. Yet I'm conflicted given the scope of the company and really, what is or isn't true. So I'm also hoping for definitive proof of talc's link to cancer, or that J&J's talc was contaminated by asbestos, if proof of either is even possible.

OVER TO YOU

Where's your head at with all this? (Mine is still spinning.)

Have you seen The Laundromat on Netflix? (I watched it quite recently; it's probably why the J&J story in The New Yorker registered so strongly. Financial legal loopholes are literally evil genius.)

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