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Johnson’s Baby Shampoo Contained Formaldehyde, Per Indian State Testing

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An inspection by Indian regulators found that Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo contained “harmful ingredients,” which result in the company being banned from selling the product in the northern state of Rajasthan.

According to a bulletin (PDF) issued by the Government of Rajasthan last month, samples of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo were declared to not be of standard quality. Johnson & Johnson has confirmed that the findings are the result of formaldehyde identified in the tested samples, although the manufacturer has denied that there are any dangerous ingredients in the products.

Overexposure to formaldehyde can be harmful to humans with short term symptoms, known to cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and sinuses. Other acute exposures to formaldehyde have been known to cause burning, itching, dryness and redness of the eyes, nasal dryness, soreness, sore throat, wheezing, and shortness of breath, chest pains and even bronchitis.

The long-term effects of formaldehyde exposure are less known, however research over the last few decades indicates that it is a cancer-causing agent.

In the early 1980’s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was notified by scientists performing independent studies that linked the exposure of formaldehyde to nasal cancer in lab rats. After analyzing the studies the EPA had classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under prolonger or extended periods of exposure.

By 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had classified formaldehyde as a human carcinogen, and the National Toxicology Program of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) named formaldehyde as a known and definite carcinogen to humans possible to cause cancer.

The report comes shortly after national Indian authorities investigated the company’s baby powder products to see if they contained asbestos. Johnson & Johnson said in February that the government told it investigators had seen no signs of asbestos in its products and continued sales in India.

It also comes as an increasing number of juries in the U.S. say that evidence shown in court establishes that Johnson’s Baby Powder and other talc-based products contributed to the development of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. This has resulted in a number of verdicts in the tens of millions of dollars over the last year.

Just days after the Rajasthan report was issued, a California jury hit Johnson & Johnson with a $29 million verdict in favor of a woman who says she developed mesothelioma after using its Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products for years.

Johnson & Johnson currently faces nearly 13,000 Johnson’s Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits pending in courts nationwide, each involving similar allegations that the manufacturer has failed to warn consumers for decades about the cancer risks associated with their talc-based products, including claims brought on behalf of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and mesothelioma following years of exposure to the widely used products.

While most of the cases are pending in the federal court system, a number of claims have been filed in state courts nationwide, where several prior juries have already returned large verdicts against the manufacturer, often including punitive damages that are designed to punish Johnson & Johnson for recklessly disregarding the safety of consumers when it withheld safety information and continued to promote use of the products among adult women for “feminine hygiene”.

Johnson & Johnson is pursuing appeals in each of the cases that resulted in a verdict, and is refusing to negotiate talcum powder settlements, some analysts have suggested that the verdicts are a sign that juries find Johnson & Johnson’s trial defense lacking in credibility.

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