During a 1999 lawsuit, that claimed the powder was contaminated, J&J (Johnson & Johnson Company) asserted the product was asbestos free. However, an investigative report was done by Reuters reportedly uncovered positive tests going back to the 1970s. In addition to their findings never before released court documents show and testimonies that tell a very different story.
The earliest mentions of tainted J&J talc that Reuters found come from 1957 and 1958 reports by a consulting lab. They describe contaminants in talc from J&J’s Italian supplier as fibrous and “acicular,” or needle-like, tremolite. That’s one of the six minerals that in their naturally occurring fibrous form are classified as asbestos.
At various times from then into the early 2000s, reports by scientists at J&J, outside labs and J&J’s supplier yielded similar findings. The reports identify contaminants in talc and finished powder products as asbestos or describe them in terms typically applied to asbestos, such as “fiberform” and “rods.”
In 1976, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was weighing limits on asbestos in cosmetic talc products, J&J assured the regulator that no asbestos was “detected in any sample” of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973. It didn’t tell the agency that at least three tests by three different labs from 1972 to 1975 had found asbestos in its talc – in one case at levels reported as “rather high.”
Since the 1999 lawsuit, where the terminally ill plaintiff lost, J&J was compelled to share thousands of pages of company memos, internal reports and other confidential documents with lawyers for some of the 11,700 plaintiffs now claiming that the company’s talc caused their cancers — including thousands of women with ovarian cancer.
An examination of many of those documents, as well as deposition and trial testimony, show that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.
If this is true and the company intentionally concealed knowledge of contaminated product from the public, they could be looking at multi-billion dollar suits in punitive damages.
The most disturbing fact about this new discovery is how many babies were exposed to the potentially lethal asbestos tainted baby powder? Adults too.