Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its baby powder

NBC News | 12/14/2018 | Staff
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J&J denied the claim. Baby powder was asbestos-free, it said. As the case proceeded, J&J was able to avoid handing over talc test results and other internal company records Hobson had requested to make the case against baby powder.

J&J didn’t tell the FDA that at least three tests by three different labs from 1972 to 1975 had found asbestos in its talc — in one case at levels reported as “rather high.”

Coker - Choice - Lawsuit - Hobson - Plaintiff

Coker had no choice but to drop her lawsuit, Hobson said. “When you are the plaintiff, you have the burden of proof,” he said. “We didn’t have it.”

That was in 1999. Two decades later, the material Coker and her lawyer sought is emerging, as J&J has been compelled to share thousands of pages of company memos, internal reports and other confidential documents with lawyers for some of the 11,700 plaintiffs now claiming that the company’s talc caused their cancers — including thousands of women with ovarian cancer.

Reuters - Examination - Documents - Deposition - Trial

A Reuters examination of many of those documents, as well as deposition and trial testimony, shows that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.

The documents also depict successful efforts to influence U.S. regulators’ plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc.

Portion - Documents - Trial - Media - Reports

A small portion of the documents have been produced at trial and cited in media reports. Many were shielded from public view by court orders that allowed J&J to turn over thousands of documents it designated as confidential. Much of their contents is reported here for the first time.

In...
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