Talcum powder removed from J&J products / Voluntary recall by chemist

The issue of asbestos in talcum powder and the safety of talcum powder has been a subject for debate over the past few years. One of the biggest global manufacturers of talcum-based consumer products such as baby powder has recently announced it will discontinue using talcum in its products and instead use corn starch.

Johnson & Johnson has faced a large number of lawsuits related to talcum-based products. According to Forbes, Johnson & Johnson:

“… had nearly 38,000 cases related to asbestos in talc products and had paid approximately $4 billion in settlements, verdicts and defense costs” as of July 2022.

Johnson & Johnson says discontinuing talcum in products was a commercial decision:

“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.”

At least one Australian retailer Capital Chemist has voluntarily recalled its J&J Baby Powder containing talcum, after CHOICE Community member @postulative raised the issue:

Products containing talcum are still commonly available at major supermarkets Woolworths, Coles and chemists.

What’s the current health advice on talcum-based products?
There’s no recent consumer health advice at a government level. For example, there’s no general mandatory recall on talc products. Previously, the Cancer Council and Ovarian Cancer Australia have indicated low risk levels from talcum:

Experts like Professor Bernard Stewart from the Cancer Council has said the current evidence that talc-based powders caused cancer was “very slight” and “far from established.”

However, there have also been previous major recalls due to the detection of asbestos in talcum product.