Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that its baby powder contained asbestos, according to a Friday Reuters report, but the company kept this information secret.
Reuters examined documents, deposition and trial testimonies that showed Johnson & Johnson company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers knew – at least from 1971 through the early 2000s – that the company's raw talc tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, but failed to tell regulators or the public.
About 11,700 plaintiffs have filed suit against Johnson & Johnson, claiming its talc product caused their cancers. That includes thousands of women with ovarian cancer. Scientists have long linked asbestos to mesothelioma, which is associated with ovarian and other cancers.
In the face of recent court victories for plaintiffs in New Jersey and California who claimed the baby powder caused their mesothelioma, the company has maintained that its talc is safe and it has made no effort to hide information to the contrary.
“Plaintiffs’ attorneys out for personal financial gain are distorting historical documents and intentionally creating confusion in the courtroom and in the media,” Ernie Knewitz, Johnson & Johnson’s vice president of global media relations, wrote in an email to Reuters. “This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer. Any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false.”