Johnson & Johnson knew about asbestos in its baby powder for decades, report

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Barclays analyst Geoff Meacham said concerns related to asbestos being sometimes present in baby powder have been an overhang for some time and the report doesn't materially change the outlook for the company.

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Ernie Knewitz told Reuters that plaintiffs' attorneys are "out for personal financial gain" and are "distorting historical documents and intentionally creating confusion in the courtroom and in the media".

J&J now faces 11,700 lawsuits alleging harm from the product, according to the company's most recent quarterly securities filing.

J&J, in 1976, had assured the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that no asbestos was "detected in any sample" of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973 when at least three tests by three different labs from 1972 to 1975 had found asbestos in its talc.

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.

"The Reuters article is one-sided, false and inflammatory", Johnson & Johnson said in a lengthy statement about the report.

After a series of ups and downs in defense of its flagship Johnson's Baby Powder, Johnson & Johnson hit renewed scrutiny Friday as Reuters reported the drugmaker knew for decades its talc powder contained cancer-causing asbestos. This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer. She sued the company, they claimed it was "asbestos-free", and because the burden of proof was on her, they didn't have to turn over records or results-even after tests revealed that the mesothelioma was consistent with the fibrous asbestos often found in talc.

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Further reports by the company and outside labs showed similar findings through the early 2000s.

The report states that while most internal J&J tests did not find asbestos, the company has always faced limitations that allow trace contaminants to go undetected.

Earlier this year, courts in New Jersey and California awarded damages to plaintiffs who claimed Johnson & Johnson talc products caused their mesothelioma.

J&J did not immediately return a request for comment, but the company has publicly maintained there is no science to back alleged links between its powder and cancer.

The company has been battling more than 10,000 cases claiming its Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products cause ovarian cancer.

Then, in 1992, three years after J&J sold its Vermont mines, the new owner, Cyprus Minerals, said in an internal report on "important environmental issues" in its talc reserves that there was "past tremolite" in the Hammondsville deposit.

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