Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, a talcum powder product used by generations of parents and children, often contained asbestos, reports Reuters. The same mines where talc is found are often contaminated with deposits of naturally occurring asbestos.
A Reuters review of internal company documents, show that from at least 1971, Johnson & Johnson’s raw talc and finished powers sometimes tested positive for asbestos content. The company’s lawyers & executives, however, were concerned about how to deal with the problem without disclosing the problem to the public.
As the EPA considered regulating the use of asbestos in cosmetic products in the mid-1970s, Johnson & Johnson successfully avoided increased regulatory scrutiny by assuring the agency that no asbestos was detected in any sample of talc. This belied the reality that at least three internal tests in three years had found asbestos in its talc.
Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, is a deadly carcinogen. Decades of scientific research establish that inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause an array of human injuries including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma – an incurable and fatal cancer. The latency period, or time from exposure to diagnosis of an asbestos disease, can take decades: 30 or even 40 years is common.
The Johnson & Johnson documents have recently come to light after years of legal claims brought by victims who alleged their injuries were caused by exposure to Baby Powder. While most of these claims were brought by women with ovarian cancer, more recent trials have involved mesothelioma victims – a signature disease caused only by asbestos.
Johnson & Johnson states it will appeal the recent verdicts and maintains that its talc is safe, as shown by what the company views as the best available studies.
Talc which studies showed sometimes contained small amounts of asbestos came from mines in Italy and Vermont. Since 2003, talc in Baby Powder sold in the United States has been sourced from China.