Published: Sat, December 15, 2018
Business | By Eloise Houston

Johnson & Johnson knew about asbestos in its baby powder, report says

Johnson & Johnson knew about asbestos in its baby powder, report says

Company documents, along with deposition and trial testimony, show that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, tests showed small amounts of asbestos could sometimes be found in the company's raw talc and finished powders, Reuters reported. The documents, says Reuters, show company executives and scientists discussing how to address the issue, but not disclosing it to health officials or consumers.

J&J vice president Ernie Knewitz told Reuters that plaintiffs' attorneys are "out for personal financial gain" and are "distorting historical documents and intentionally creating confusion in the courtroom and in the media".

In a statement posted on its website, Johnson & Johnson described the Reuters report as "one-sided, false and inflammatory".

The decline in shares wiped off about $24bn from the company's market capitalisation, and made the stock the biggest drag on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indexes.

Thornton Law Firm LLP is investigating potential violations of the federal securities laws on behalf of purchasers of the securities of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE ticker: JNJ) regarding recent revelations that J&J knew about asbestos in its baby powder and talcum powder products dating back several decades. "Studies of more than 100,000 men and women show that talc does not cause cancer or asbestos-related disease", it said.

A case in July, in which a judge ordered the company to pay $4.69bn in damages to 22 parties, was the first to succeed with a claim that the talc caused ovarian cancer.

The company added that it remained confident that its products do not contain asbestos or cause cancer.

The report by the Reuters news service sent the company's shares into a tailspin, suffering their worst one-day sell-off in 16 years.

"This is true even if - and it does not - Johnson & Johnson's cosmetic talc had ever contained minute, undetectable amounts of asbestos".

Evidence the company knew about the link came to light after people who suspected that talc caused their cancers hired lawyers who were experienced in litigation involving workers exposed to asbestos.

In its statement Friday, Johnson & Johnson said "thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world's leading labs prove our baby powder has never contained asbestos".

Reuters said that while working on the story it contacted Johnson & Johnson, and though the company said it would make an expert available to Reuters, it did not.

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