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

Ann Santiago
December 15, 2018

The New Brunswick, New Jersey company has battled in court against such claims and on Friday called the Reuters report "one-sided, false and inflammatory".

Company documents, along with deposition and trial testimony, show that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, tests showed small amounts of asbestos could sometimes be found in the company's raw talc and finished powders, Reuters reported.

The company's executives, researchers, doctors and lawyers were aware but deliberately chose not to disclose this information and not to refer it to the authorities, according to the report. The cases include thousands of women with ovarian cancer.

The company said that "thousands of tests" by Johnson & Johnson, regulators, independent labs, and academic institutions have shown that its talc does not contain asbestos. In July, $4.7bn was awarded in total damages to 22 women in St Louis, Missouri, who said asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talc powder contributed to their ovarian cancer.

Thornton Law Firm LLP is investigating potential violations of the federal securities laws on behalf of purchasers of the securities of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE ticker: JNJ) regarding recent revelations that J&J knew about asbestos in its baby powder and talcum powder products dating back several decades.

Reuters' report also showed the company had commissioned and paid for studies conducted on its Baby Powder franchise and hired a ghost writer to redraft the article that presented the findings in a journal.

Reuters report also states that J&J denied the claim. "Simply put, the Reuters story is an absurd conspiracy theory". 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".

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

The report stated that Johnson & Johnson had been sued by thousands of people, including many women, who claimed the powder was risky to their health and that the company didn't notify consumers.

The Reuters report noted that most internal J&J asbestos tests did not find asbestos, but said that while the company's testing methods had improved over time, they "have always had limitations that allow trace contaminants to go undetected" and that only a "tiny fraction" of the company's talc is ever tested.

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