J&J Knew About Asbestos in Baby Powder for Decades, but Covered it Up

A new report indicates that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that certain ingredients used in its talcum powder products sometimes contained small amounts of asbestos, a mineral substance that has been shown to cause cancer. Asbestos is found naturally in rock and soil, as is talc, and because talc and asbestos often occur together in the earth, it is possible that mined talc used in J&J’s talcum powder products could be contaminated with the cancer-causing mineral, even though the company continuously claims that its talc-based Baby Powder is asbestos-free. According to this new report, published by Reuters, J&J’s raw talc and finishing powder tested positive for asbestos from at least 1971 until the 2000s, which means consumers using those products may have been exposed to small amounts of cancer-causing asbestos. If you believe you have been adversely affected by asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products, contact an experienced talcum powder cancer lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral substance commonly used in the past in building applications, such as insulation and roofing materials. Asbestos fibers are resistant to heat, electricity and chemical corrosion and pure asbestos is an effective insulator, which makes it a valuable material for industrial applications. Unfortunately, these qualities also make asbestos highly toxic and while it has not been subjected to an outright ban, its use in the United States has been heavily restricted due to its link to mesothelioma, a rare but deadly type of cancer affecting the cells that form the outer lining of the lungs, heart, stomach and other organs. Mesothelioma is caused by inhaling asbestos dust or fibers into the lungs, where the mineral’s needle-like fibers cause irritation, chronic inflammation and genetic changes that turn the cells cancerous. Asbestos-related mesothelioma is diagnosed in approximately 20,000 people every year, primarily in workers exposed to asbestos on the job.

How is Talcum Powder Linked to Cancer?

Talcum powder is an extremely popular cosmetic and personal hygiene product valued for its ability to absorb moisture, fight odor and prevent diaper rash, and it is made from the mineral talc, which sometimes naturally contains traces of asbestos, as reported by the American Cancer Society. In 1976, the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrances Association (CTFA), the organization that represents the cosmetic and personal care products industry, issued voluntary guidelines stating that all talcum products in the United States should be free of detectable amounts of asbestos. However, this new Reuters report suggests not only that J&J talcum powder products contain potentially harmful amounts of asbestos, but that the company knew about this for decades and intentionally covered it up.

For its part, Johnson & Johnson has strongly denied the allegations in the Reuters report, which cites documents that have emerged throughout the ongoing talcum powder litigation – many of which were decades old – as well as thousands of internal company documents, calling the report “one-sided, false and inflammatory” and a “conspiracy theory.” However, the documents cited in the Reuters report say otherwise. Many of the documents included correspondence by “company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers” who “fretted over the problem [of the company’s raw talc and finished powders testing positive for asbestos] and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.” The documents also indicate that J&J submitted favorable test results to the FDA, while intentionally withholding results that showed the existence of asbestos in talc.

J&J Hit with Talcum Powder Lawsuits

The perineal use of talc-based baby and body powders is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” and the American Cancer Society includes asbestos and mineral substances that contain asbestos, including talc, on its list of known human carcinogens. Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower Body Powder products are already the subject of thousands of lawsuits filed on behalf of female consumers and their loved ones, who allege that their use of the talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes caused them to develop ovarian cancer. Just last year, a St. Louis jury awarded $4.7 billion to 22 women who claimed that they developed ovarian cancer due to asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products. And now, Johnson & Johnson faces a new wave of talcum powder lawsuits alleging that asbestos in its Baby Powder and Body Powder products caused consumers to develop mesothelioma cancer.