Published: Sat, December 15, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Johnson & Johnson hammered by report it knew of asbestos in baby powder

Johnson & Johnson hammered by report it knew of asbestos in baby powder

The documents Reuters got ahold of showed that scientists working at Johnson & Johnson or with outside labs found that there was sometimes a small amount of asbestos or used language typically used to explain the contaminant.

"[The] examination of numerous documents, as well as deposition and trial testimony, shows that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company's raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public".

Evidence the company knew about the link came to light after people who suspected that talc caused their cancers hired lawyers who were experienced in litigation involving workers exposed to asbestos.

The 22 plaintiffs were the first to succeed with a claim that asbestos-tainted Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc, a longtime brand the company sold in 2012, caused ovarian cancer, which is much more common than mesothelioma.

The World Health Organisation now recognises no safe level of exposure to asbestos.

In July 2018, a St. Louis jury awarded almost $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in J&J talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer.

The report comes as the company faces thousands of lawsuits claiming that its talc products caused cancer.

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Because of that, Johnson & Johnson regularly tested its talc and, according to Reuters, "from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company's raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos" and executives and other employees failed "to disclose it to regulators or the public".

Their lawyer Mark Lanier called for the company to pull its talc products from the market "before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a awful disease".

But a 2017 verdict in California, as well as other verdicts in Missouri, have been overturned on appeal, while challenges to another five verdicts are pending.

Johnson & Johnson strenuously rejected the claims made in the article, calling it "one-sided, false and inflammatory". The FDA's own examinations also found no asbestos in powder samples in the 1970s, but Reuters says those tests did not use "the most sensitive detection methods".

In its statement Friday, Johnson & Johnson said "thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world's leading labs prove our baby powder has never contained asbestos".

The company said Friday there were rigorous tests showing the talc did not contain the cancer-causing mineral.

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