Johnson & Johnson knew its baby talcum powder contained asbestos

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is an American multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturing company founded in 1886. With worldwide sales of $70.1 billion in 2015, J&J is headquartered in New Brunswick, NJ, and includes some 250 subsidiary companies with operations in 60 countries and products sold in over 175 countries.

Among J&J’s well-known consumer products are Band-Aid bandages, Tylenol, Neutrogena skin and beauty products, Acuvue contact lenses, and Johnson’s baby products, including Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, 70% of which is used by adults, according to the company.

Johnson’s Baby Powder grew out of a line of medicated plasters — sticky rubber strips loaded with mustard and other home remedies. When customers complained of skin irritation, J&J’s founding brothers sent packets of talc. Soon, mothers began applying the talc to infants’ diaper-chafed skin. The Johnsons took note. They sifted the talc into tin boxes and added a fragrance that would become one of the most recognizable in the world. In 1893, they began selling it as Johnson’s Baby Powder.

J&J has dominated the talc powder market for more than 100 years, its sales outpacing those of all competitors combined, according to Euromonitor International data. And while talc products contributed just $420 million to J&J’s $76.5 billion in revenue last year, Baby Powder is considered an essential facet of J&J’s carefully tended image as a caring company – a “sacred cow,” as one 2003 internal email put it. (Reuters)

Decades of solid science show that asbestos, a naturally-occurring silicate mineral, causes mesothelioma and is associated with ovarian and other cancers.  Talc can sometimes be contaminated with asbestos due to the proximity of asbestos ore (usually tremolite) in underground talc deposits.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other authorities recognize no safe level of exposure to asbestos. WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies talc that contains asbestos as “carcinogenic to humans.” While most people exposed never develop cancer, for some, even small amounts of asbestos are enough to trigger the disease years later. Just how small hasn’t been established.

There are many lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson claiming that its talcum powder products, like Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, gave users cancer. Most of the talc cases have been brought by women with ovarian cancer who say they regularly used J&J talc products as a perineal antiperspirant and deodorant. As examples:

  • In February 2016, J&J was ordered to pay $72 million in damages to the family of 62-year-old Jacqueline Fox, who died of ovarian cancer in 2015.
  • By March 2017, over 1,000 U.S. women had sued J&J for covering up the possible cancer risk of its Baby Powder product.
  • In August 2017, a California jury ordered J&J to pay $417 million to a woman who claimed she developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s talc-based products like Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene.
  • In July 2018, a St. Louis jury awarded nearly US$4.7 billion in damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in J&J talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer.
  • By December 2018, some 11,700 people have sued J&J over cancers allegedly caused by its baby powder.

Lisa Girion reports for Reuters, Dec. 14, 2018, that internal J&J documents examined by Reuters show that the company’s powder was sometimes tainted with carcinogenic asbestos and that J&J concealed that information from government regulators and the public.

And yet, we are constantly being told there are no conspiracies and that “conspiracy theorists” are loony.

After avoiding to hand over talc test results and other internal company records for decades, J&J finally 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 suing the company, including thousands of women with ovarian cancer.

A Reuters examination of many of those documents, as well as deposition and trial testimony, shows that:

  • From at least 1971 to the early 2000s, J&J’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.
  • J&J successfully influenced U.S. regulators’ plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc.
  • Many of the documents were shielded from public view by court orders that allowed J&J to turn over thousands of documents it designated as confidential.
  • The earliest mentions of tainted J&J talc are in 1957 and 1958 reports by a consulting lab, describing contaminants in talc from J&J’s Italian supplier as fibrous and “acicular” needle-like  tremolite. Tremolite is one of the six minerals that in their naturally occurring fibrous form are classified as asbestos.
  • From 1957 to the early 2000s, reports by J&J’s scientists, supplier and outside labs yielded similar findings, describing contaminants in J&J talc and finished powder products as asbestos or “fiberform” and “rods” — terms that typically apply to asbestos.
  • In 1971, New York City’s environmental protection chief, Jerome Kretchmer, informed the Nixon administration and called a press conference to announce that two unidentified brands of cosmetic talc appeared to contain asbestos. The FDA opened an inquiry. J&J issued a statement: “Our fifty years of research knowledge in this area indicates that there is no asbestos contained in the powder manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.
  • In 1976, J&J assured the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that no asbestos was “detected in any sample” of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973 when, in fact, 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.”

J&J, through its outside litigation counsel Peter Bicks, rejected Reuters’ findings as “false and misleading.” Bicks wrote in 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. This is true even if – and it does not – Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc had ever contained minute, undetectable amounts of asbestos.”

In 1980, J&J began offering a cornstarch version of Baby Powder – to expand its customer base to people who prefer cornstarch, the company says.

Since 2003, talc in Baby Powder sold in the United States has come from China through supplier Imerys Talc America, a unit of Paris-based Imerys SA and a co-defendant in most of the talc litigation. Imerys and J&J said the Chinese talc is safe. An Imerys spokesman said the company’s tests “consistently show no asbestos. Talc’s safe use has been confirmed by multiple regulatory and scientific bodies.”

In 2009, the FDA, responding to growing public concern about talc, commissioned tests on 34 samples, including a bottle of J&J Baby Powder and samples of Imerys talc from China. No asbestos was detected.

In August 2018, J&J said that it removed several chemicals from baby powder products and re-engineered them to make consumers more confident that products were safer for children.

The mounting controversy surrounding J&J talc hasn’t shaken investors. J&J’s share price is up about 6% so far this year. Talc cases make up fewer than 10% of all personal injury lawsuits pending against J&J, based on the company’s Aug. 2 quarterly report, in which the company said it believed it had “strong grounds on appeal.”

J&J Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky has pledged to fight on, telling analysts in July: “We remain confident that our products do not contain asbestos.” Gorsky’s comment, echoed in countless J&J statements, misses a crucial point. Asbestos, like many environmental carcinogens, has a long latency period. Diagnosis usually comes years after initial exposure – 20 years or longer for mesothelioma. J&J talc products today may be safe, but the talc at issue in thousands of lawsuits was sold and used over the past 60 years.

On Wednesday, December 19, Johnson & Johnson failed to persuade Missouri trial Judge Rex Burlison to set aside a verdict awarding a record $4.69 billion in punitive and compensatory damages to 22 women who blamed their ovarian cancer on asbestos in the company’s Baby Powder and other talc products.

J&J shares were off about 1% at $128.93 in afternoon trading. The company in a statement said J&J would appeal. (Reuters)

~Eowyn

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TrailDustCrackerbabySteveStevensenHoopTPR Recent comment authors
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Joseph BC69
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Joseph BC69

In the late 1980s, a large landscape design-build firm out of Trenton, New Jersey, which I directed, built a new combined drainage pond & irrigation system for J&J company’s headquarters, a 40-acre property. A very impressive corporate property to me, used to seeing much smaller scaled headquarters. A LOT of money there! And as I’ve said over and over for at least 35 years, we must stop using the phrase “conspiracies” and accept these as long-term business arrangements. I will give just two recent classics from US history: 1. For decades the Tennessee Valley Authority put out a request for… Read more »

Lophatt
Member
Lophatt

Just to try to understand this in a different way, “asbestos”, per se, is not a toxic substance. It is, like most things, a matter of exposure and use. It IS dangerous if inhaled or ingested. The property of asbestos that makes it dangerous is its shape. It is like a dart. It is difficult to dislodge and the body has to try to reject it. That is where the “cancer” comes in. Because the normal processes of rejection can’t dislodge it the body continues to try and then usually encapsulates it. This causes cell damage over time. The best… Read more »

DCG
Editor

I wonder if Bicks and Gorsky allowed their children or wives to be doused in J&J baby powder? I’m guessing not.

Shame on these people, shame on them.

Recynd77
Guest
Recynd77

I am no lover of multinational corporations, but I’m more afraid of globalist entities like the UN or WHO. Nestled within Agenda 21 is something called the Precautionary Principal, which essentially holds that until a product is *proven* safe, it cannot be released for public consumption. While that might SOUND like a good idea, how does one prove that something is harmless? That’s tantamount to proving a negative. And just think of how the PP would stifle innovation! Why do we assume we can douse ourselves in ANYTHING day after day without effect? Whether it’s baby powder, shampoo, deodorant, perfume,… Read more »

Steven Broiles
Member

Shocker, Not: I’m surprised it took this long to find this out. But at least J & J is not like Nabisco, which sold bad baby formula to Africa for decades. (Or that said formula had to be mixed with clean water, a rarity in Africa.) The corporations will cut corners and break the law with glee, because they know the members of the Board will never spend a day in jail. After all, fine a corporation a million dollars, and they have already computed how many more units of their product they have to sell to pay the fine.… Read more »

TPR
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TPR

Excellent facts-based report & educational, too! When we were little kid (1950s), there always was the infamous round baby-blue-plastic container full of white-talcum-powder with its big round “powder puff” in the bathroom which each kid got doused with said powder after baths. I’m not sure why/where that habit came from … whether from prior generations passing down the idea, or whether from “advertising persuasion,” or whether because there was no A/C in those days & in hot humid FLA, you’d begin to sweat again in short measure after a bath. (FLA: “The Sweaty State,” ugh!) Thankfully, I did not continue… Read more »

TPR
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TPR

Forgot to add (which I have also shared in the past, so this is a repeat):

Trump, as a builder, LOVES asbestos, per older articles online. He said it’s THE BEST fire-retardant ever invented/discovered, & that it was “Asbestos-Removal Companies” who purposely created the asbestos “danger/panic” to keep themselves in business, lol (we love our fellow “conspiracy-theorist” president!).

He said his buildings, the older ones at least, have asbestos, but that if any unit-buyer or tenant wants it removed, they set it up to remove it & that it only takes 2-3 days & that it’s no big deal.

SteveStevensen
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SteveStevensen

Johnson and Johnson doesn’t care how much you suffer as their product slowly kills you. As long as they still turn a profit on the product.

Their cancerous baby powder as well as their toxic DePuy hip replacements that have poisoned, maimed and crippled hundreds of thousands of people. Can you imagine getting informed that your artificial hip has been “recalled”?

J&J knew their hips were maiming and disfiguring people in Europe, but decided to sell it in the USA anyway.

Don’t buy anything from Johnson and Johnson…if they could get away with putting PCBs in their plastic bandaids they would.

TPR
Guest
TPR

There must have been a Johnson & Johnson troll who visited this article as almost every comment has at least 1 “Dislike” vote. Who in their right mind would Down-Vote Truth backed up by Facts? Tsk Tsk!

Crackerbaby
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Crackerbaby

Not a user…. BUT! some people are going to contract cancer sometimes killing them.

“Speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act.” Geo. Orwell

TrailDust
Admin

This is typical and completely disgusting. Johnson & Johnson is no longer trusted by me.

Recynd77
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Recynd77

Walter Burien, the Truther behind bringing CAFRs to public attention, posted this comment on Clint Richardson’s blog. I thought it important, and tangentially related to this topic. I am re-posting it as it was written (minus a completely unrelated opening paragraph comprised of a single sentence). ******************* (Following is written by Walter Burien) Recently (The last 5-years), one thing kept tearing severely at me, the several very large elephants in the room that were going seemingly totally unnoticed by 99.999% of the population. I kept asking myself: “How could the mention of the CAFR (our local Government’s Statement of Net… Read more »