In a rare move by several popular US retailers across the country, WalMart, Target, Rite-Aid and Walgreens have decided to pull thousands of Johnson & Johnson baby powder bottles from their shelves. Specifically, a total of 33,000 baby powder bottles in the 22-ounce size have been removed as interest in the product has drastically fallen due to the products safety being called into question.

This serious response by stores comes after the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, released a study that discovered small traces of asbestos in a certain lot of Johnson & Johnson baby powder bottles. It also mirrors the many lawsuits and legal challenges the company faces that claim their baby powder product has serious health effects.

Asbestos concerns in Johnson & Johnson baby powder are nothing new. The American based company has been fighting claims that their product has caused lung disease and certain forms of cancer, like ovarian cancer, for over 40 years. One of the most prominent diseases that asbestos has been proven to cause is mesothelioma, a type of cancer that can form in the linings of the lung, stomach, and other vital organs.

While there have been many lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson over claims of their products’ harm, this year is the first time the FDA has announced that asbestos was detected in their product.

Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless commented in a statement that the FDA is vigilant about testing talc products to ensure that there is no presence of asbestos, and that a second iteration of the test with another bottle of baby powder returned negative for asbestos contamination. While there are many complaints from consumers who have used the affected baby powder products, the FDA is listening and acting on known complaints about the carcinogens presence in the product. 

This comes late to some, however, who claim that the company knew about the asbestos contamination in its talc powder for decades. In fact, internal company records have been obtained from the early 1970’s into the early 2000’s that show the company’s raw talc and finished powders, like baby powder, have tested positive for the carcinogen asbestos before the confirmation offered by the FDA’s testing.

The asbestos discovered in the Johnson & Johnson baby powder was from one specific a lot – #22318RB. Stores that removed the baby powder from its shelves have made sure to remove the baby powder from only that lot. According to Walmart spokesperson, Eric Hulliberger, all stores were diligent in removing the affected Johnson & Johnson products that were attached to the certain UPC. 

Since the asbestos discovered in the lot was no more than 0.0002%, Johnson & Johnson has launched its own separate investigation into the results. They released a statement last month saying that Johnson & Johnson is cooperating and working with the FDA to make sure that the test results of the sample are accurate. 

“It is important that the public is made aware of these test results. Despite talc being commonly used in many cosmetics and body products, it is important that the manufacturer take responsibility for the integrity of their product,” says product liability attorney Gary Massey of Massey & Associates, PC.

Despite Johnson & Johnson’s separate investigative inquiry, the FDA maintains their testing is accurate. FDA Spokeswoman, Lyndsay Meyer said to CNN that the FDA is ensuring that the proper operating procedures were followed by the tested samples. She also said that there was no evidence of cross-contamination within those samples. 

Now, it appears that the well-known product is falling out of favor with many as ongoing legal battles persist. As the target of federal criminal investigations by 41 states about how forthright Johnson & Johnson has been about the safety of its product, it appears the company may continue to see issues with their once wildly popular product as more than 19,000 lawsuits have been filed against the company.

While Johnson & Johnson has committed to discontinuing its talc-based baby powder in the North American market, many still want to see justice served to those who were unknowingly exposed to asbestos by the negligence of the company. As more and more information is uncovered, and the company’s stock and popularity plummet, many hope to see the company held accountable for its negligence that lead to the serious effects on the health of thousands who used their popular baby powder products.