Many people in Houston have used Johnson & Johnson baby powder and other products made by the company containing talc. However, they may be concerned to hear that, according to a Reuters investigation, since the 1970s Johnson & Johnson continued to manufacture and sell its baby powder product, despite having the knowledge that the talc in the products contained asbestos. These products have caused many to contract terminal illnesses, such as cancer.
Thousands of lawsuits regarding the talc have been filed against Johnson & Johnson. However, the company still claimed that its products were safe for consumers to use even though it knew that the products sometimes contained carcinogenic asbestos. Nevertheless, the company kept this vital information secret from both consumers and regulators.
Johnson & Johnson tested their talc products three times in the 1970s and discovered that some of the talc in its products contained “rather high” amounts of asbestos. An analysis by Reuters of internal reports as well as depositions and testimony given at trials revealed that Johnson & Johnson knew about the asbestos in the powder it produced and was concerned about the issue, but nevertheless kept the issue secret.
In fact, according to Reuters, Johnson & Johnson successfully influenced U.S. regulators’ plans to decrease the amount of talc in certain cosmetics based on research regarding the dangers of using talc contaminated with asbestos. In 1976, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wanted to place a limit on how much asbestos talc products can contain, but Johnson & Johnson told the agency that their talc products did not contain asbestos.
Lawsuits have been filed, with mixed results. While one claim resulted in a $4.69 billion award to the 22 plaintiffs involved, other lawsuits resulted in a mistrial or resulted in a verdict in favor of Johnson & Johnson. It is important, however, that those injured by products containing asbestos pursue plaintiff litigation against the responsible parties. When companies mislead the public and regulators on the dangers of their products and continue to put their tainted products on store shelves, they should be held accountable for the damages they cause by doing so.