According to a report released by Reuters last week, Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that their raw talc and finishing powders tested positive for small traces of asbestos on occasion since 1971, which can result in cancer. However, the majority of the test documents revealed no signs of asbestos.
In the 1971 statement which the company claimed none of their products contained asbestos, a researcher from Mount Sinai wrote a letter to J&J, claiming a “relatively small” amount of asbestos found in its baby powder. Two years later, an internal note by a company scientist said they might have issues since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considered implementing a rule which required all cosmetic talc to contain no more than .01 percent asbestos. Although the FDA eventually set asbestos limits on talc for drugs, cosmetic talc did not apply.
When J&J claimed that there haven’t been any signs of asbestos in talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973, Reuters encountered three tests which claimed the contrary. In an internal memo from 1976, an overseer for the company’s talc stated that J&J would have difficulty supporting purity claims if stricter methods for testing asbestos became a requirement.
The company has been sued by over 9,000 women who claim Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower powder was linked to mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. This past July, a St. Louis awarded almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who claimed the company’s products contributed to their ovarian cancer, while a woman from California was awarded $417 million for the same claim last year.
While some of the documents obtained by Reuters came from court proceedings, the news agency gained access to thousands of company records which were sealed from the public.
Talcum powder derives from talc, which is a mineral that can occasionally contain some traces of asbestos.
J&J released a statement following the release of the report, which denied the claims and called them a conspiracy theory. They claimed their products never contained asbestos after thousands of tests by third-party regulators.