Despite this, the pharmaceutical firm says its talcum Baby Powder ’does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer’

Insurers could be bracing for more claims related to pharmaceutical firm Johnson and Johnson’s Talcum Baby Powder 2023 despite the company announcing last week (11 August 2022) that it was ending sales of the product globally.

The firm has made the decision to remove the product from shelves because of ongoing legal action – including around 38,000 lawsuits – due to claims the product contains asbestos, allegedly leading claimants to contract ovarian cancer.

The Baby Powder product has already been removed from shelves in Canada and the USA.

Johnson and Johnson told Insurance Times that it will be ending all sales of its talcum Baby Powder in the UK and said it was transitioning to using corn starch in its product instead of talcum.

Talcum – also known as hydrated magnesium silicate – is one of the key ingredients in the baby powder and is a natural clay mineral mined from rock deposits found near asbestos deposits.

Abestos is a mineral that can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis when inhaled over a length of time.

When talcum is ground finely it can absorb moisture, reduce smells and friction. It has been used for years on babies during nappy changes and other uses.

Meanwhile, other UK brands – such as Waitrose and Asda – continue to sell own-brand talcum powder. Insurance Times has contacted these firms for comment. 

The mid-1990s saw a surge around asbestos liabilities, which hit Lloyd’s of London significantly. This saw its regulatory responsibilities transferred to the FCA.

Insurance Times has also contacted the FCA and Lloyd’s for comment. 

Portfolio transition

A statement from Johnson and Johnson said: “As part of a worldwide portfolio assessment, we have made the commercial decision to transition to an all cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio. As a result of this transition, talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder will be discontinued globally in 2023.

“We continuously evaluate and optimise our portfolio to best position the business for long-term growth. This transition will help simplify our product offerings, deliver sustainable innovation and meet the needs of our consumers, customers and evolving global trends.”

According to Reuters, Johnson and Johnson stopped buying product liability insurance in 2005 because it was expensive and not widely available, according to a regulatory filing.

The firm uses a self-insurance program via a subsidiary – Middlesex Assurance Company Ltd  as stated in the filing and court documents.

Johnson and Johnson added: “Our position on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unchanged. We stand firmly behind the decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirms talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer.”

Insurance Times has contacted Middlesex Assurance Company Ltd for comment.