Report claims Johnson & Johnson knew of asbestos in baby powder

Johnson & Johnson baby powder container with baby powder sprinkled around

An examination of company memos, internal reports and other documents by Reuters finds that tests as far back as 1971 showed the company's raw talc and powders occasionally tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.

After Reuters released a report indicating Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) may have known for decades that asbestos was contaminating its baby powder and other talc products, shares in healthcare heavyweight lost more than 10% of their value on Friday.

The majority of the lawsuits that J&J faces involve claims that talc itself caused ovarian cancer, but a smaller number of cases allege that contaminated talc caused mesothelioma, a tissue cancer closely linked to asbestos exposure.

There have been thousands of lawsuits against Johnson and Johnson brought by women claiming that the powder caused them to contract ovarian cancer.

The report sent the company's stock plunging and on pace for its biggest drop since 2002.

A report from Reuters on December 14 accuses pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) of knowing about the presence of cancer-causing asbestos in its popular baby powder-for decades.

Vice president Ernie Knewitz- J&J's global media relations, wrote in an emailed response to the report, "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".

Internal documents examined by Reuters show that the company's powder was sometimes tainted with carcinogenic asbestos and that J&J kept that information from regulators and the public.

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The documents accessed by Reuters also depicted successful efforts by the pharma giant to influence United States regulators' plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc.

A new report from Reuters said Johnson & Johnson knew its talc powder contained asbestos but didn't alert consumers. Johnson & Johnson said it would appeal the verdict, Reuters reported.

Attorney Peter Bicks told Reuters in an email: "The scientific consensus is that the talc used in talc-based body powders does not cause cancer, regardless of what is in that talc".

Talc is the main ingredient in Johnson's Baby Powder.

Reuters reporter, Lisa Girion, noted that Johnson and Johnson appeared to care more about covering up the asbestos finding than warning the public.

The baby-product manufacturer continues to deny all claims.

J&J said the story was "one-sided, false and inflammatory" and an "absurd conspiracy theory," according to a statement.

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