Johnson & Johnson’s iconic Baby Powder is a product founded on a basis of trustworthiness and health. A recent Reuters report may change this perception, which has already been tainted by the growing numbers of talcum powder lawsuits claiming the product caused their cancer. The report claims that top executives of the pharmaceutical giant knew for years that the talc used in its Baby Powder contained asbestos – a known carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent. Late last week, Reuters reported on an analysis of thousands of documents released by J&J as part of a trial in which the company is accused of exposing plaintiffs to asbestos in its talc products.
The body of documents, including internal memos, trial depositions and confidential company reports, indicate that for more than 30 years, J&J’s raw talc occasionally tested positive for traces of asbestos; and that company attorneys, scientists and talc mine managers worried about how to address the issue, while simultaneously failing to alert US health regulators or the public.
Internal documents reveal J& J knew of asbestos risk
Reuters was the first to review many of these confidential documents and report on the asbestos link that plaintiff’s attorneys have been demanding for years. Johnson & Johnson has always claimed that Baby Powder is free of asbestos particulates, but its testing reports suggest otherwise.
Lisa Girion reported that the earliest mentions of asbestos-tainted J&J talc date back to 1957 and 1958, in documents provided by a consulting lab. “At various times from then into the early 2000s, reports by scientists at J&J, outside labs and J&J’s supplier yielded similar findings. The reports identify contaminants in talc and finished powder products as asbestos or describe them in terms typically applied to asbestos.”
In 1976 the FDA established restrictions on asbestos in talc products for cosmetic use. Despite these regulations, J&J did not tell the FDA that three separate talc tests from 1972 to 1975 had discovered asbestos in its products. In one of the tests, the results showed “rather high” asbestos levels.
Many plaintiffs who have taken legal action against J&J argue that the company’s talcum-based powders were unreasonably dangerous, and that exposure through inhalation or external dusting was enough to cause ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs.
There is no safe level of asbestos exposure
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), asbestos is a proven carcinogen and there is no “safe level” of exposure. Even nominal amounts of asbestos are enough to trigger inflammation since the rod like fibers penetrate deep into tissue and can result in cancer of the ovaries, the lungs and their lining – tumors that can develop years later.
The New York Times reported that in one Johnson & Johnson document released and reviewed, an executive said its best-selling Baby Powder could potentially be contaminated by asbestos.” Another memo stated the that Johnson & Johnson could no longer assume that its talc mines were free of cancer-causing asbestos.
New revelations may spark talc cancer lawsuits
According to J&J’s August quarterly report, talcum powder lawsuits account for less than 10 percent of the claims pending against the company. Earlier this year, 22 women who sued J&J over claims that its talc products caused ovarian cancer were awarded $4.9 billion by a St. Louis jury. The company faces an estimated 12,000 complaints involving ovarian cancer alone, and other litigation involving talc and mesothelioma.
In light of the recent evidence that J&J knew of asbestos risks but failed to warn consumers, plaintiffs may be in a much stronger position to achieve favorable verdicts or settlements.
If you believe you have grounds to file a talcum powder lawsuit, contact Showard Law Firm for a free case review. Our attorneys provide tenacious advocacy and fight hard to hold manufacturers accountable for placing profits over consumer safety.
- Reuters, Breakingviews – J&J’s talc crisis will linger for years https://www.reuters.com/article/us-johnson-johnson-cancer-breakingviews/jjs-talc-crisis-will-linger-for-years-idUSKBN1OD2IH
- New York Times, Asbestos Link Worried Johnson & Johnson for Years https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/14/business/baby-powder-asbestos-johnson-johnson.html
- The Hill, Report: Johnson & Johnson knew about asbestos in baby powder for decades https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/421395-report-johnson-johnson-knew-about-asbestos-in-baby-powder-for-decades