A Reuters investigation published today reports that Johnson and Johnson knew that its baby talc powder contained asbestos as early as 1971.
The report cites lab documents and internal J&J memos that indicates company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors, and lawyers all knew about the problem decades back and failed to alert regulators or the public.
According to Reuters, the earliest mention of asbostos in J&J talc dates to 1957 and 1958 when lab scientists identified fibrous, needle-like minerals that care classified as asbestos. In 1971, an independent scientist from the Mt. Sinai Medical Center wrote J&J to inform that his team had found a "relatively small" amount of asbestos in the company's Baby Powder. He was summarily placed on a J&J list of "antagonistic personalities."
Through the 1970's and 1980's, Johnson and Johnson lobbied the federal government to reduce the regulations on asbestos containing consumer products and 2013 an internal editing markup of J&J's website recognized that the company could not claim its Baby Powder has "always" been asbestos free.
J&J's comment on today's report blames plaintiff's lawyers and reporters out for personal financial gain for "distorting historical facts and intentionally creating confusion." The company denies hiding information about its talc and denies that its talc causes cancer. The market has reacted with J&J stock down 10% on the day.
J&J is embroiled in a series of lawsuits around the nation in which individuals allege their use of J&J Baby Powder caused them cancer. Verdicts have been mixed -- with some coming back in favor of the plaintiff and others in favor of the company.