Health Care

Johnson & Johnson Allegedly Knew Baby Powder Contaminated with Asbestos for Decades

Johnson & Johnson Allegedly Knew Baby Powder Contaminated with Asbestos for Decades”

The documents revealed that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s the firm's internal tests sometimes found small amounts of asbestos in its raw talc and finished powders.

The decline in shares wiped off about $24bn from the company's market capitalisation, and made the stock the biggest drag on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indexes.

After a series of ups and downs in defense of its flagship Johnson's Baby Powder, Johnson & Johnson hit renewed scrutiny Friday as Reuters reported the drugmaker knew for decades its talc powder contained cancer-causing asbestos.

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.

The documents also depict successful efforts to influence USA regulators' plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc, the report states.

A case in July, in which a judge ordered the company to pay $4.69bn in damages to 22 parties, was the first to succeed with a claim that the talc caused ovarian cancer.

The documents, most of which remain shielded from public view, also hinted at the company's successful efforts to influence United States regulators' plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products as well as scientific research on the health effects of talc. The cases include thousands of women with ovarian cancer.

In July 2018, a St. Louis jury awarded almost $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in J&J talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer.

In response, J&J lambasted the Reuters article as "one-sided, false and inflammatory" in a statement published on its website.

One of those labs found asbestos in Shower to Shower talc from the 1990s, according to an August 11, 2017, court report. To that point, the news service posted an excerpt of a statement in which employees wrote the company "cannot say "always" in reference to the product being asbestos-free.

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

"Studies of more than 100,000 men and women show that talc does not cause cancer or asbestos-related disease". Still, J&J's Knewitz told the news service "any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false".

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