The Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI) today said it was in the dark regarding concerns that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Baby Powder may be linked to ovarian cancer.
The pharmaceutical giant was last week ordered to pay US$4.69 billion to 22 women and their families who had claimed that asbestos in the company’s talcum powder products had caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
A jury in a Missouri circuit court awarded US$4.14 billion in punitive damages and US$550 million in compensatory damages to the women, who had accused the company of failing to warn them about cancer risks associated with its baby and body powders.
The company is facing more than 9,000 plaintiffs in cases involving body powders with talc, according to a regulatory document filed.
Since the ruling, attorney-at-law David Comissiong questioned why the BNSI or other regulatory agencies here had not moved to ban the product from Barbados.
“Surely, the court case in Missouri must have been based on credible scientific evidence and must have been going on for some considerable time before last Thursday’s verdict. In this age of information technology, does the BNSI or any other local regulatory agency monitor these types of developments internationally? And if so, why have they not alerted the Barbadian people to the cancer causing danger associated with this very popular product?
“And – most importantly – when is this product going to be banned from Barbados?” Comissiong asked in a statement on Saturday from the Clement Payne Movement.
However, despite the fact that the first talc trial took place in 2013 in a federal district court in South Dakota, United States, during which a jury found J&J negligent, BNSI Chief Technical officer Fabian Scott told Barbados TODAY the institution was only now learning of the development.
Scott explained that Barbados depends on its counterparts in the United States and other source markets for information on potentially hazardous products, and no one had raised the alarm about the J&J products.
“We will contact the US consumer protection division and see if they themselves have any notifications or any information on this product. We have not seen or heard anything from them to indicate that is the case,” Scott said, adding he would not speculate about the reasons the information had not been shared.
“We can’t jump to conclusions because we don’t know if they do have the information, and we don’t know that they did not share it. So, first, we have to find out if they do have any confirmed information because if that was the case then they would have had failings on their end. Similarly, we have not heard from our colleagues in the European Union and they would have also tested the product for any carcinogenic activities. We have to wait and see,” he added.
Scott also explained that while the BNSI was responsible for recommending products that should be banned from entering Barbados, the ban was enforced by other entities within the Ministry of Commerce. He also said those entities did not have to await a policy decision if it were determined that a product posed a threat to national health.