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Lawyer Blog: Baltimore, MD

Of Course Johnson & Johnson Knew About Risks of Asbestos in Baby Powder

Johnson & Johnson has long denied that it had any knowledge about harmful ingredients in its talcum powder products. But a recent article in The New York Times reports that the company has known for years that its popular baby powder was potentially contaminated with asbestos.

According to the article, the company was warned about the possibility of asbestos contamination in its baby powder by a company executive as early as 1971. The executive recommended to senior company leaders that Johnson & Johnson improve its quality control of talc, a mineral that is the main ingredient in the powder. Asbestos, which has been on the world radar screen for years as a cause of cancer, is often found near talc mines. Two years later, another executive also warned the company about possible asbestos fibers in its talc. Other warnings followed over the years.

Instead of removing the product from the market, changing the main ingredient, or at least adding warning labels, senior company leaders instead sought to hide the findings. The deception and denials from the company have gone on for years, to the life-threatening detriment of consumers who use the product. Recent internal documents and memos that came to light through litigation and the newspapers’ efforts have helped expose the cover up.

It sadly isn’t a surprise that the company knew about possible asbestos in its products but chose to put profits over people. Fortunately for cancer victims, though, the discovery of that knowledge has made it more difficult for Johnson & Johnson to shield itself from liability in lawsuits.

Baby Powder Linked to Cancer

Johnson’s baby powder with talc has been linked to ovarian cancer in women, as well as to mesothelioma, an especially aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and other organs. Mesothelioma has long been associated with asbestos exposure. Research has also linked asbestos and ovarian cancer.

In July 2018, a court awarded 22 women who suffered from ovarian cancer—six of whom had died at the time of the award–and their families an incredible $4.69 billion from Johnson & Johnson. Lawyers for the plaintiffs had argued that the company knew that the talc might be contaminated with asbestos. Johnson & Johnson also lost two asbestos-related mesothelioma cases last year.

There are approximately 12,000 more lawsuits pending from cancer sufferers who assert that the baby powder caused their illness. Prior to the asbestos connection being made, plaintiffs were trying to prove that the talc alone caused their cancer, which was more difficult because of a lack of scientific evidence connecting talc and cancer. Asbestos, however, as already stated, has been linked to cancer for years. Juries hearing about the asbestos-baby powder connection may be more likely to agree with plaintiffs that the product caused their cancer.

We Can Help You

If you or someone you love has suffered an illness or injury after using a talc product or another consumer product, Steve Heisler may be able to help. Call us today at 410-625-4878 for a free initial consultation, or use our convenient and confidential form.