Friday, 18 January, 2019

Johnson & Johnson knew about asbestos in its baby powder for decades, report

Johnson and Johnson knew baby powder contained asbestos for decades: Report Johnson & Johnson knew about asbestos in its baby powder for decades, report
Melissa Porter | 15 December, 2018, 07:29

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. Thousands more cases against the company are still pending.

However, the report claims that lab tests of various J&J baby powder products have produced positive results for asbestos concentrations that may have resulted in exposure to people who used them.

Reuters examined internal documents, as well as trial depositions and testimony which they say prove that J&J knew the powder was sometimes tainted with "carcinogenic asbestos" from "at least 1971 to the early 2000s" and that executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers anxious about the issue and how to address it while keeping it hidden from regulators and the public.

Reuters added that "only a tiny fraction of the company's talc" was also tested each time.

A St. Louis jury awarded plaintiffs $4.7 billion.

Even when the FDA was weighing limits on asbestos in cosmetic talc products in 1976, J&J assured the regulatory body that none had been detected "in any sample" between December 1972 and October 1973.

Reuters cited documents released as part of a lawsuit by plaintiffs claiming the product can be linked to ovarian cancer.

Having looked at the documents, the earliest mentions of tainted J&J products found by Reuters came from 1957 and 1958 reports by a consulting lab.

Nonetheless, the Reuters report was enough to spook investors, who sent J&J's shares down more than 10% Friday morning.

But now, years later, 11,700 plaintiffs have claimed the J&J's talc caused their cancers, forcing the firm to hand over memos, internal reports and other confidential documents to their lawyers.

In a statement, the company said, "The Reuters article is one-sided, false and inflammatory".

But assertions that the talc contained asbestos - and the science showing it causes mesothelioma and is also associated with ovarian and other cancers - has had mixed success in court.

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

Despite their denial, the company's stock fell 10 percent on Friday, after the report was published, "marking its largest one-day percentage decline in 16 years", according to Market Watch.

Reuters said that J&J turned down repeated requests for an interview for more than two months.