Johnson & Johnson knew its baby powder was often tainted with asbestos for years, report says

Company has faced thousands of lawsuits alleging its products caused cancer

Johnson & Johnson knew its baby powder was often tainted with asbestos for years, report says
Johnson & Johnson has faced thousands of lawsuits alleging that its powders caused cancer. (Source: AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File/AP)

(RNN) – Johnson & Johnson knew for years that its baby powder was frequently contaminated with asbestos, according to an investigation published by Reuters on Friday.

The company has denied the report, according to the Associated Press, calling it “false and inflammatory.”

A denial could not, however, prevent Johnson & Johnson’s stock from plummeting more than 10 percent.

The Reuters investigation found that for decades, the company sought to hide the fact that in many cases cancer-causing asbestos contaminated the talc that was used to produce its talcum powder products, including baby powder.

Talc is a mineral that is mined and then processed into powder composites for products like baby powder. According to Reuters, it often is found in the ground with or near raw asbestos minerals.

Johnson & Johnson has faced a tsunami of suits from customers alleging their talcum powder products caused their cancer. In October, Reuters reported the company faced more than 10,000 such suits.

In July, it was ordered to pay roughly $4.7 billion in damages in a case involving 22 women who said the products caused their ovarian cancer.

The company has, however, won court victories and had losing verdicts reversed in a number of states.

Reuters’ report is based on documents and court testimony that have emerged from many of these cases.

The report says they show that “the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos” and that people both within and outside the company worried about “how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.”

Company materials tout talc’s safety without addressing its association with asbestos.

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