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Johnson & Johnson Knew Its Baby Powder Contained Asbestos

For over 50 years, Johnson & Johnson has been facing countless lawsuits over claims that its iconic Baby Powder caused cancer. The company has repeatedly refuted these claims in courts and in the media. But a recent Reuters investigation and review of J&J’s internal memos revealed that the company knew all along that talc, the main material for its powders, was sometimes tainted with asbestos – a carcinogenic matter. And J&J intentionally kept this information from federal regulators and the general public.

Asbestos is a crystalline fiber that occurs naturally in nature. It is made up of six minerals which are tremolite, chrysotile, actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite and crocidolite. A trace of tremolite has often been found to taint talc since it occurs in talc deposits or mines, and may from there make its way into the baby powder.

Currently, up to 11,700 litigants claim their cancers were caused by J&J’s asbestos-contaminated talc powder. Most of the complainants are women, and most of them have ovarian cancer with a few having mesothelioma, among other cancer types.

Now after being compelled by courts to share results of its talc lab tests and other internal documents, thousands of confidential documents reveal J&J was aware of the carcinogenic implications of using tainted talc for its products.

J&J Sat on Scientific Data Linking Talc Baby Powder with Cancer in Women

The first mention that Reuter’s found in their investigation where J&J’s baby powder was cited as containing asbestos came via a consulting lab around 1957. Then between 1972 and 1975, three other lab tests by three different labs found asbestos in J&J’s talc, but the company didn’t share that with the FDA or consumers. Instead, they told the FDA that no asbestos was detected in any sample. .

Meanwhile, some of J&J’s own company officials, lab scientists, medical doctors, lawyers and even talc mine managers expressed concerns to the company over talc contaminations but J&J kept the concerns quiet.

WHO does not recognize that exposure to asbestos is safe at any levels. Major health authorities also share the same policy. Most people do not develop cancer after exposure to asbestos, but some come down with the disease several years later, even after what seems to be exposure to relatively small amounts. Why some develop the disease and others don’t is not understood.

J&J Blames Plaintiffs’ Lawyers for Wanting To Cash In On Faulty Talc-Asbestos-Cancer Lawsuits

Now J&J finds itself in hot water as many women who have faithfully used J&J’s Baby Powder for years before coming down with cancer have hired lawyers experienced in asbestos-talc cases.

In some cases, juries have awarded financial compensation to the women but J&J has vowed to fight it, claiming the juries were wrong and manipulated. They claim attorneys representing litigants are “overzealous lawyers looking for a fresh pool of asbestos plantiffs.”

Ernie Knewitz, J&J’s vice president for global media relations, even said attorneys distort historical documents and scientific studies to achieve financial gain from lawsuits. He said the company’s talc powder “does not contain asbestos or cause cancer” and anything contrary to this is a “calculated attempt to distract from the fact.”

J&J Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky has pledged to fight on, telling analysts in July: “We remain confident that our products do not contain asbestos.”

Read the full Reuters investigation here.



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