Report on ”The Rise in Asbestos–Cancer Concerns with Johnson & Johnson Talc–Based Baby Powder”

Report on ”The Rise in Asbestos–Cancer Concerns with Johnson & Johnson Talc–Based Baby Powder”

Executive Summary

Despite the ban on Johnson and Johnson Talc-Based Baby Powder in developed countries like the USA and Canada, those banned products are still imported and sold in developing countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc.

Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder are already banned in the USA and Canada. In South Asia, India has already found a trace of carcinogenic materials like formaldehyde in baby powders. India’s drug regulator has ordered J&J to stop manufacturing Baby Powder using raw materials in two of its Indian factories until test results prove they are free of asbestos. Sri Lanka has also banned imports of the product pending asbestos tests.

However, Bangladesh is yet to address this issue properly. MF Consumers is the importer of the Baby Powder and other famous products of Johnson and Johnson. The Bangladeshi firm imports the powder from the Johnson and Johnson plants in India. As third world countries and developing, nations are the main target markets now to sell the J&J talc-based banned powders of developed countries, they are maintaining double standards in these regions. On the other hand, Bangladesh doesn’t have enough laboratory support to test and analyze asbestos in these talc-based products both for J&J and local products. For which Bangladesh has to take support from neighboring countries in this regard.

The use of talc-based powders has long been seen usually to brighten one’s skin temporarily or to soothe any skin irritation. Talc based baby powders have been very popular for its usefulness in preventing babies’ diaper or other skin rashes. Among the other brands, Johnson and Johnson (J & J) talc-based baby powder is on the top in popularity. Talc, naturally occurring mineral-based powders are known as ‘Talcum’ Powders and with time as scientific research progressed, the association of asbestos with talcum powders has been identified. Asbestos is a group of minerals that occur alongside the talc geologically. Yet not every talc deposit is contaminated with asbestos. The potential ability of asbestos to cause cancer came out through research in the mid-20th century.

Accordingly, J & J baby powders have been tested for the cancer-causing asbestos and found high in content. As a result, the company announced that it would discontinue sales of its talc-based Baby Powder in the U.S.A. and Canada while allowing existing inventory to be sold down in stores until it runs out. The company also said it plans to continue selling the talc-based product globally. Therefore, it seems that the decision to halt their sale in certain regions would protect only a small part of the world while they have their supply chains all over the world. This settlement results in putting the consumers of the other part of the world under risk.

Bangladesh is one of the countries that ratified the Basel Convention in 1993, which suggests that Bangladesh should prohibit the import of asbestos-containing products into the country. Nevertheless, Under the ‘Import Policy Order’ of Bangladesh the chemical banned list does not include ‘Asbestos or it containing products’. On the other hand, the Ministry of Commerce is the responsible authority to handle formaldehyde and it’s containing products. They have the authority to determine and examine the sales register of importers on a regular basis. Import Policy Order also does not include any restriction over carcinogenic chemical containing products’ import in the list of prohibited goods.

This report is being compiled to highlight the danger of cancer-causing asbestos in talcum powders with a focus on J & J products so that people may be aware of it. Since this brand is a famous one among mothers of the children in our country, this piece of information may enlighten their knowledge of the health impacts of the product. Although the brand is being outdated in the USA and Canada, Bangladesh has not come up with any concrete laboratory-based test results, which should be taken, into consideration by the concerned authorities. Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute (BSTI) should properly address the situation and take action to test Johnson and Johnson talc-based skin products as well as other local talc-based powder to see the products are containing chemicals at optimal level. On the other hand, Asbestos should be included in the ANNEXURE-3 of Import Policy Order to stop illegal import or use in any imported products.

This report is targeting to build awareness among mass people about the health risk that possesses through the use of J&J Talc-Based Baby Powder. This is highly risky for pregnant women and newborn babies. Continuous use of these talc-powders can ultimately trigger ‘Mesothelioma’ which may occur when tumors grow in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. People with mesothelioma usually get it by inhaling or swallowing asbestos for several years. This is now an emerging issue to address as it is directly associated with human health hazards, especially for children. Educating the mass people about asbestos and its effects on human health and the natural environment can help to stop the use of these products. Asbestos doesn’t easily dissolve or evaporate. The places with the most aggravating effects of asbestos exposure have heavy asbestos contamination that can travel to surrounding air and bodies of water. When natural deposits and asbestos products such as talcum powder are blown in the wind, these can remain in the air and water. Smaller asbestos particles can remain in the air for quite some time, and they’ll be carried into wind currents and water bodies. Animals inhale asbestos particles in the air or ingest these from water. As well, marine animals ingest asbestos in bodies of water. Since asbestos cannot decompose, the danger remains for a long period of time. Media advocacy on this topic is a necessary part to be highlighted in this report. Media can play a vital role to identify the possible gaps in the authorities and ask them when and how they will determine the issue properly.

On the contrary, albeit Bangladesh has consumer protection acts where there is the prohibition in the sale and marketing of harmful products, this is rarely followed by the manufacturers. So this is highly recommended in this report for the concerned government authorities to go for laboratory-based test results of widely used J & J talc-based baby powders, and if found, immediate actions will need to be taken. While compiling relevant information, we did not get any specific data on the annual import of J & J baby powder, so the report suggests more research and information for further studies.


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