Johnson & Johnson’s iconic baby powder has come under recent scrutiny as it faced hundreds of lawsuits last year with thousands more to come. While not all of the lawsuits have come out in the plaintiff’s favor, juries have handed down some astounding verdicts, such as a nearly $5 billion verdict to cover 22 women who claimed that the talc powder product caused them to develop ovarian cancer. The talc that makes baby powder, well, powdery, is mined nearby asbestos, which is a known carcinogen that causes cancers to develop. For their part, Johnson & Johnson maintains that their product contains no asbestos, but now Congress is going to weigh in as Vox reports.
Tuesday, March 12 marked the House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy’s first meeting. The subcommittee’s chair decided to focus the first meeting of 2019 on baby powder. Specifically, whether or not baby powder poses any health hazards and whether any federal oversight is necessary.
Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), chairs the subcommittee. The decision to look into whether federal oversight is necessary was spurred by recent events. One of those events was reports in the media that giant Johnson & Johnson had hidden the fact that between 1970 and the 2000s, that some of its talc used in baby powder contained asbestos.
Speaking before the subcommittee included one expert witness who has testified on behalf of plaintiffs in numerous lawsuits, the vice president of Environmental Working Group (EWG), who promotes greater government scrutiny and regulation of cosmetic products, and Marvin Salter, whose mother, Jacqueline Fox, won a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson totaling $72 million after dying of ovarian cancer.
For years now, the beauty product and cosmetics industry has been self-regulated, but the subcommittee hopes that with the testimony offered that there could be bi-partisan support towards enacting government regulation.
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