Retailers pull Johnson & Johnson's baby powder products after asbestos scare

Walmart, CVS and Rite Aid have pulled 22 oz. bottles of J&J's baby powder off their shelves. (Pixabay)

Johnson & Johnson investors were sent reeling when the drugmaker pulled some of its baby powder products off shelves after "sub-trace" amounts of asbestos were found in certain lots. Now, retailers are taking the cautious approach and pulling J&J's products themselves.

Walmart, CVS and Rite Aid have all yanked 22 oz. bottles of J&J's baby powder off their shelves since the company issued a voluntary recall late last week.

"Retailers are executing the Johnson’s Baby Powder single lot-level recall, and for some stores that may involve removing all 22-ounce talc bottles from their shelves," a J&J spokesman said in a statement. "Customers are continuing to carry all other sized Johnson’s Baby Powder products."

J&J opted to recall one lot of its baby powder products––equivalent to 33,000 bottles––“out of an abundance of caution” last week after the FDA found “sub-trace” levels, or no greater than 0.00002%, of chrysotile asbestos contamination in a bottle purchased from an online retailer. 

RELATED: J&J reels after FDA finds 'sub-trace' levels of asbestos in its baby powder

The decision spooked already-wary investors, as J&J faces thousands of lawsuits nationwide about the alleged cancer risks associated with its baby powder. 

Attorneys representing plaintiffs in one of those cases are now calling on a judge to allow further discovery in their lawsuit, calling the recall "highly relevant" to their cases.

Last week, J&J reversed a $110 million jury verdict in a Missouri talc case after the state's court of appeals found that the original venue didn't have jurisdiction over the Virginia plaintiff's case. The reversal was J&J's fourth win on appeals in negative verdicts it has faced in its talc defense.

RELATED: J&J wins reversal of $110M talc verdict, its 4th appeals win in Missouri

J&J applauded the win in a statement, which was the drugmaker's seventh jury trial victory.

"The jury got it right—Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos and was not the cause of the plaintiff’s disease," the company said.

The two most recent wins followed setbacks that J&J has pledged to appeal. 

In a separate California verdict earlier this month, a jury leveled a $40 million penalty against J&J, arguing the company’s baby powder contained asbestos and caused a 70-year-old woman to develop mesothelioma.

Just weeks before, a New Jersey jury had ordered the drugmaker to pay $37.3 million to four plaintiffs on the same grounds. In a unique twist, the judge struck J&J’s entire closing argument after the company's lawyer called the plaintiffs' attorneys “sinister.” 

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a comment from J&J.