Confidential documents and internal reports sourced from Johnson & Johnson in the United States reveal that the company knew its baby powder contained asbestos, and had done for decades.
These documents were released nearly two decades after a Texan woman claimed that the “poisonous talc” made by Johnson & Johnson caused her mesothelioma. It was found that the company’s raw talc and finished powders occasionally tested positive for small amounts of asbestos from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, and that Johnson & Johnson failed to disclose this knowledge to the regulators and to the public. The documents also suggest that the company successfully influenced the US regulators into limiting asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc.
It was also found that, from as far back as 1957, there were “contaminants” in Johnson & Johnson baby powder which were “fibrous and acicular, or needle-like, tremolite” – essentially, asbestos.
There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is toxic, and the inhalation of fibres can cause pleural plaques, asbestosis and mesothelioma – an aggressive cancer which affects the lining of the lungs. These diseases have a long latency period, and disease can occur 40 years or more following first exposure to asbestos.
In July, a jury found that damages to the value of US$4.7 billion should be awarded to 22 plaintiffs. There are a further 11,000 persons in the U.S who have been identified as having a potential claim to compensation for their injuries from baby powder. This number also includes thousands of women who have ovarian cancer.
Concerns over the contents of Johnson & Johnson baby powder have been around for some time, said Giorgina McCormack, asbestos lawyer at Adviceline Injury Lawyers.
“The release of these documents is significant, and Australian consumers of Johnson & Johnson baby powder who have an asbestos-related disease should contact a lawyer to discuss whether they have a claim.”
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