By Ma. Rikka T. A. Castaneda
Johnson & Johnson (J&J) assured on Wednesday, October 23, that its baby powder sold in the Philippines is not part of the batch recalled in the United States for possible asbestos contamination. The local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it is verifying this claim.
In a statement, the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) called on the FDA to “to conduct product evaluation test to assure the quality and safety the product poses to the health of consumers.”
The issue cropped up as the US Food and Drug Administration (US-FDA) issued on October 18 an advisory to consumers to stop using J&J baby powder with Lot # 22318RB, after traces of chrysotile asbestos fibers were found in one bottle purchased online.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen.
The US FDA’s discovery, through a random sampling of 50 cosmetic products sold online, prompted the company to voluntarily recall 33,000 bottles of J&J baby powder from one batch of the product distributed in the US.
Here in the Philippines, J&J’s official Facebook page posted that this particular batch of the product being recalled is limited in the US. “We would like to assure everyone that this recall is only limited to the specific lot distributed in the US and does not affect markets outside of US, including the Philippines,” it said.
A report by GMA News Online quoted local FDA Officer-in-Charge Eric Domingo as saying, “At this time, we have information that the bottles involved were not sold in the Philippines. We are now verifying this.”
But ALU-TUCP National Executive Vice President Gerard Seno said health authorities, particularly the FDA, should take proactive steps to mitigate undue anxiety among local consumers since the brand of baby powder is commonly used by Filipinos.
“We are urging them (FDA authorities) to conduct product evaluation test (of J&J baby powder sold in the Philippines) to assure the quality and safety of the product,” said Seno.
“The FDA must guarantee to all of us the safety, purity and efficacy of this product in order to protect the health and welfare of the general public. It is better for FDA to err on the side of caution than to realize too late that many people’s health and safety have already been compromised simply because they didn’t check the product,” he added.
Meanwhile, TUCP Party-List Rep. Raymond Mendoza’s House Bill 2636 is pushing to ban the import, manufacture, use, process, distribution of asbestos for commercial purposes.
“Workers involved in the manufacture of asbestos-containing materials, construction workers, electricians, plumbers, pipe fitters, carpenters, power plant workers, boilermakers, shipyard workers, firefighters, and teachers are the type of workers who are highly risked to exposure to cancer-causing asbestos in the country,” the ALU-TUCP official added.
In the Philippines, blue and brown asbestos is banned. However, white or chrysotile asbestos is regulated on a few existing products by Chemical Control Order 02 series of 2000 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The World Health Organization (WHO), International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the American Cancer Society maintains all types of asbestos including chrysotile asbestos causes a variety of cancer diseases including malignant mesothelioma—a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs such as the lungs and chest wall.