Johnson's to discontinue sales of baby powder in North America following cancer claims
London - Johnson's Baby Powder will no longer be sold in North America following claims it causes cancer.
Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson decided to axe the product in the US and Canada, where demand has dwindled amid thousands of lawsuits.
However it will still be sold elsewhere in the world.
The firm faces about 19 400 cases alleging its talcum powder caused women who used it for feminine hygiene to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, which strikes the lungs and other organs.
It insists the product is safe, a claim backed up by the overwhelming majority of medical research.
British experts say users should not be alarmed. Cancer Research UK says on its website: "Cosmetic body and talcum powders often contain a mineral compound called talc. Several studies have looked at talcum powder use and ovarian cancer.
"While on the whole studies have seen a modest increase in the risk of ovarian cancer in women who use talc on their genitals, the evidence isn’t completely clear.
"Scientists are trying to see if there is a real link, but for now we can’t be sure whether or not talc itself could cause ovarian cancer. However, even if there is a risk it is likely to be fairly small."
Johnson & Johnson, the world’s biggest maker of healthcare products, has so far won 12 lawsuits and lost 15, with seven mistrials – meaning they were inconclusive. All of the losses have either been overturned on appeal or are still being appealed.
The firm said: "Demand has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fuelled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising."
Professor Erik Gordon, of the University of Michigan’s business school, added: "Whether or not the powder actually causes cancer, people became hesitant to use the product."
A Johnson & Johnson spokesperson said the firm did not plan to settle any of the lawsuits and would "continue to vigorously defend" its product.
The company said it was also discontinuing about 100 consumer health products.
It said its aim is to prioritise products in high demand during the coronavirus outbreak and allow for social distancing in its manufacturing and distribution facilities.