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

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

Reuters claims that the majority of internal talc test reports it reviewed found no asbestos in the product, but it notes that only a small percentage of the talc powder is ever tested and that testing limitations could potentially miss trace amounts of the deadly substance.

Shares of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) fell over 6% after Reuters reported that the pharmaceutical company knew that its baby powder was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos. The World Health Organization also says that talc found with asbestos is a carcinogen.

But Reuters claimed it examined internal reports, company memos, and other confidential documents from lawyers of some of the 11,700 plaintiffs who claimed J&J's baby power caused cancer from at least 1971 until the 2000s.

Documents show that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers all fretted over the problem - but failed to disclose the issue to the public, the news agency says.


What is new, however, is Reuters' suggestion that J&J documents show the company was aware of the risk of asbestos contamination in its talc products as far back as 1957, when a consulting lab described "contaminants in talc from J&J's Italian supplier as fibrous and "acicular", or needle-like, tremolite".

In 1976, J&J had assured the US Food and Drug Administration that no asbestos was "detected in any sample" of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973.

The company in July lost a lawsuit from plaintiffs who argued that its products were linked to cases of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

The company also clarified that Baby Powder was asbestos-free and added it would continue to defend the safety of its product.


Earlier this year in St. Louis, a jury awarded 22 plaintiffs $550 million and hit Johnson & Johnson with more than $4 billion in damages because that jury believed the talc in the powder had caused ovarian cancer.

U.S. pharmaceutical and cosmetics group Johnson & Johnson saw its shares plunge on Friday after a media report alleged the group had deliberately concealed for decades that its baby powder sometimes contained asbestos.

The company called the story false and inflammatory.

None of the thousands of tests done by company, regulators, independent labs and academic institutes have revealed that the company's powder contains asbestos. He said Johnson & Johnson already has another product with a similar objective but no talc: Instead it contains corn starch.


As Reuters points out, the CEO's statement doesn't address whether the company's talc previously contained asbestos.

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