An investigative report shines a light on the company’s deception about asbestos-contaminated baby powder
Aware that its talcum powder-based products tested positive for asbestos, Johnson & Johnson executives went to great lengths to hide the dangerous truth from the public and regulators, according to internal company documents examined by Reuters. The investigation documented a pattern of lack of transparency on the part of the company and comes out in the midst of thousands of lawsuits filed against the company. Plaintiffs in those lawsuits claim that the company’s talc causes both mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
J&J’s baby powder and other talc products produced $420 million in revenue in 2017. The memos, internal reports, and other confidential documents that courts have compelled J&J to turn over demonstrate several key points:
- J&J was aware of an asbestos/talc problem but hid the results
Deposition and trial testimony show that from the early 1970s to the early 2000s, J&J’s raw and finished talc sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos. Earlier reports confirming asbestos contaminated J&J’s talc date back to at least the 1950s. Company employees from mine managers to scientists, doctors, and lawyers worried about the issue and how to address it. However, they simultaneously failed to tell regulators or the public about the findings, often omitting facts about the talc in question. According to Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Ana Viscomi, “Providing the FDA favorable results showing no asbestos and withholding or failing to provide unfavorable results, which show asbestos, is a form of misrepresentation by omission.”
- J&J chose a relatively weak asbestos testing method
Only a small fraction of the talc J&J sold underwent testing. Of additional concern is that J&J ignored a Colorado lab’s procedural recommendations for testing talc. Best practices suggest concentrating the talc prior to examination under a microscope. As their primary method of asbestos detection, J&J chose a weaker testing method: X-ray scanning without concentration.
- J&J attempted to influence United States regulators
J&J tried to get the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to approve an X-ray scanning technique that a company scientist admitted allowed for “an automatic 1% tolerance of asbestos.” This technique would permit talc with up to 10 times the FDA’s proposed limit for asbestos in prescription drugs to still receive clearance for cosmetic use. J&J physician and scientist executives went as far as to commission and pay for a study in which they told researchers their desired results. Company executives even went on to hire a ghostwriter to rewrite the study. It should be noted that according to the World Health Organization, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.
Talcum powder products are considered cosmetics. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act defines cosmetics as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body . . . for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering appearance.” Under the law, cosmetics, including J&J talcum powder products, must be safe for consumers to use according to the instructions on the label. J&J has legal responsibility for the labeling of its products and public safety concerning the use of its products.
Asbestos carries with it a long latency period. For mesothelioma, it can be 20 years or longer after the initial exposure before symptoms appear. There is no cure for mesothelioma.
How Can Waters Kraus & Paul Help?
Waters Kraus & Paul is a mid-sized plaintiffs’ firm with experience in mesothelioma asbestos lawsuits. The asbestos attorneys are fighting to hold manufacturers responsible in mesothelioma asbestos lawsuits for failing to adequately protect consumers. If you suffer from mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure, the asbestos attorneys at Waters Kraus & Paul will fight for the compensation you deserve. Email us or call our asbestos attorneys at 800.226.9880 to discuss your potential mesothelioma asbestos lawsuit.