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New Report Suggests Johnson & Johnson Allegedly Kept Asbestos Secret for Decades

Johnson & Johnson has continually denied having any knowledge that its talcum-based products, such as Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, contain asbestos. However, according to Reuters, internal documents from Johnson & Johnson indicates that executives were aware that Johnson & Johnson talcum powder was contaminated but chose to conceal the information from both the public and health officials.

A Reuters investigative report published December 14, 2018, suggests that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers had explicit knowledge that some of its talcum powder products were tainted with carcinogenic asbestos. The report also alleges that the company failed to disclose this information to regulators and the public. Despite this, and thousands of legal claims surrounding its talc-based products, J&J continues to deny findings of contamination, negligence or wrongdoing.

Was Johnson & Johnson Aware of the Asbestos?

As cited in the report, Reuters examined thousands of pages of J&J memos, internal reports and other confidential documents. This examination revealed that tests conducted between the 1970s and early 2000s, indicated that J&J’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos—a human carcinogen that can cause cancer. Reuters also found information indicating that several company executives and affiliates discussed the issue and how to address it, while willfully failing to disclose it to regulators and consumers.

According to Reuters, the documents also show successful efforts on behalf of Johnson & Johnson to influence U.S. regulators’ plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and to manipulate scientific research on the health effects of talc.

How Long Has Johnson & Johnson Known?

The earliest mention of tainted talc, as cited by the Reuters investigation, is in reports filed by an Ohio-based consulting lab as early as 1957. The filings describe the contaminants in talc from J&J’s Italian supplier as a fibrous and “acicular,” or needle-like, tremolite. This substance is one of six minerals that, in its naturally occurring form, are classified as asbestos.

In 1976, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was weighing limits on asbestos in cosmetic talc products, J&J assured the federal regulator that there was no asbestos detected in any sample of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973. However, this was not the case: J&J failed to inform the agency that at least three different tests by three separate labs indicated the presence of asbestos in its talc during that time period.

What Can Be Learned from the Report?

Most internal J&J lab test results that were reviewed by Reuters indicated that asbestos was not present in the samples tested. However, it is suggested that testing methods may have used outdated or inferior technology, allowing trace contaminants to go undetected. Similarly, only a small fraction of the company’s talc is tested for asbestos.

Legal Claims Based on Talcum Powder Use

The findings of the Reuters report coincide with the beliefs of plaintiffs and their legal teams, who say that the regular use of talc-based products caused thousands of victims to develop various forms of cancer. Further allegations suggest that J&J was aware of the contamination and risks associated with its products yet did not act to prevent distribution or use.

Earlier in the year, juries in New Jersey and California awarded significant sums to plaintiffs who alleged that asbestos-tainted J&J products were the root cause of their mesothelioma. A plaintiff from New Jersey presented evidence that he developed mesothelioma after inhaling dust particles during his regular use of a J&J talc-based product over nearly 46 years. As a result, jurors found J&J and a subsidiary liable for $117 million in total damages.

The Law Offices of Peter Angelos is currently reviewing claims that J&J was aware of the risks associated with the use of its talc-based products yet failed to warn consumers and regulatory agencies. If you or a loved one suspects that their cancer may be attributed to long-term use of J&J products, such as Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, contact The Law Offices of Peter Angelos today for a no-cost consultation today.