Feds step in to investigate cancer risks of Baby Powder: Justice Department subpoenas Johnson & Johnson after leaked documents suggested talc WAS tainted with asbestos – and execs KNEW
- 13,000 people are suing the firm claiming talc gave them cancer
- According to a Reuters investigation, new papers show J&J staff from 1971 to 2000 knew that the powders sometimes tested positive for asbestos
- The earliest mentions of tainted J&J talc that Reuters found come from 1957 and 1958 reports by a consulting lab
- The damning report sent shares plummeting 8% on Friday, putting J&J on track to have its worst day in a decade
- The worst thus far was October 9, 2008, when J&J closed down 7.67%
The Justice Department has issued subpoenas to Johnson & Johnson as it ramps up its investigation into claims the brand’s Baby Powder has been tainted with asbestos.
The company was forced to disclose the development in its annual report on Wednesday – marking the first admission that it is being actively investigated by federal agencies.
A spokesman said J&J intends to ‘cooperate fully with these inquiries and will continue to defend the Company in the talc-related litigation.’
The Justice Department declined to comment and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
J&J was forced to disclose the development in its annual report on Wednesday – marking the first admission that it is being actively investigated by federal agencies
A Reuters report on December 14 revealed that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that small amounts of asbestos, a known carcinogen, had been occasionally found in its talc and powder products, according to tests from the 1970s to the early 2000s – information it did not disclose to regulators or the public.
The Reuters article prompted a selloff in Johnson & Johnson shares, erasing about $40 billion from the company’s market value in one day, and a public relations crisis as the healthcare conglomerate faced widespread questions about the possible health effects of one of its most iconic products.
Johnson & Johnson claims the information was already out there.
A spokesman dismissed the Reuters article, saying that the federal inquiries ‘are related to news reports that included inaccurate statements and also withheld crucial information’ that had already been made public.
The company added that ‘decades of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer.’
Johnson & Johnson faces lawsuits involving 13,000 plaintiffs who allege use of its talc products, including Baby Powder, caused cancer.
They all believe their talc was tainted with asbestos.
It’s not unfathomable that it would be.
Talc and asbestos are often mined together from metamorphic rocks, particularly in North Carolina, Alabama, Vermont and northern Italy.
But while talc is used for the skin, thanks to its moisture-absorbing properties, asbestos was used for insulation.
Non-contaminated talc is completely safe. But if it is tainted with asbestos, that’s the danger.
Asbestos is made up of six minerals that form together as crystalline fibers. The minerals on their own aren’t dangerous, but together they are a recognized carcinogen.
About 8 out of 10 people with mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they travel to the ends of small air passages and reach the membranes of the thorax and lunges.
They can cause inflammation, scarring, damage cells’ DNA, cause changes that result in uncontrolled cell growth.
If swallowed, these fibers can reach the abdominal lining, where they can cause mesothelioma.
Ovarian cancer is the other cancer type at the heart of the J&J cases.
It is one of the most mysterious cancers, and it’s not clear why asbestos travels to ovarian tissues, but it is well-documented.