Johnson & Johnson Knew About Asbestos in Baby Powder for Decades — Reuters Report

Monday, 17 Dec, 2018

Investors erased $40 billion of its market value Friday, after Reuters revealed the us healthcare giant knew for decades its baby powder was sometimes tainted by asbestos.

The Reuters report pointed out that, in an internal memo from 1976, one of the company's talc overseers also wrote that if stricter methods for testing talc became mandatory, the company would be "hard pressed in supporting purity claims".

J&J was ordered to pay £3.6bn in damages to 22 women in July, after they alleged that its talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

What is new, however, is Reuters' suggestion that J&J documents show the company was aware of the risk of asbestos contamination in its talc products as far back as 1957, when a consulting lab described "contaminants in talc from J&J's Italian supplier as fibrous and "acicular", or needle-like, tremolite".

The New Brunswick, New Jersey, company has dominated the talc powder market for more than a century, with its talc products adding $420 million to the company's $76.5 billion in sales in 2017.

The controversy has long dogged the company, which has been facing a wave of several thousand court cases claiming the baby powder is causing cancer.

Reuters reports that the company denied the claim and avoided handing over talc test results and other internal company records needed to make Ms Coker's case.

Adding on to the claims, the report also revealed that there were successful efforts by the company to influence United States regulators' plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc.

A new report suggests Johnson & Johnson knew that its staple baby powder contained asbestos fibers and didn't do anything about the problem. "Regulators have tested both, and they have always found our talc to be asbestos-free", the J&J statement also stated.

"The Reuters article is one-sided, false and inflammatory", Johnson & Johnson said in a lengthy statement about the report.

J&J has also faced almost 54,000 lawsuits against its pelvic mesh for allegedly causing injuries and complications. The company's stock by Thursday had risen nearly 5 percent since January, giving it a market capitalization of almost $400 billion.

Johnson & Johnson is appealing that case and a number of others elsewhere, insisting that its product is safe to use. The FDA's own examinations also found no asbestos in powder samples in the 1970s, but Reuters says those tests did not use "the most sensitive detection methods".