Global pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that its baby powder contained asbestos, Reuters said in a report on Friday. The Reuters investigation comes in the backdrop of the multiple lawsuits that the company is currently facing — where more than 9,000 plaintiffs have alleged that its talc baby powder products contain asbestos and caused ovarian and other cancers. In a major setback to the company, St. Louis jury in July had awarded nearly $4.7 billion in total damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer in the first case against the company that focused on asbestos in the powder.
The jury had announced the $4.14 billion award in punitive damages shortly after awarding $550 million in compensatory damages after a six-week trial in St. Louis Circuit Court. J&J had vowed to file an appeal against its verdict.
An investigation conducted by Reuters, said that, based on examination of documents, deposition and trial testimony — shows 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.”
The documents also depict successful efforts to influence US regulators’ plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc, the report states.