A St. Louis-based class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over claims their talc powders (officially called Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower) cause ovarian cancer has continuously revealed evidence that the company has been aware for years of the dangers of using the product. Late last month, a Johnson & Johnson training memo become public that revealed that the company knew that asbestos was present in their talc and told the medical community and employees that asbestos “has never been found and it never will.” This is a striking revelation, considering another document last month contained a 1974 recommendation from the Director of Research and Development at a Johnson & Johnson talc mine in Vermont that the company consider using citric acid to eliminate or lessen the presence of asbestos in the talc mined from the site. In the memo, the employee strongly recommended the use of citric acid “to provide protection against what are currently considered to be materials presenting a severe health hazard and are potentially present in all talc ores in use at this time.” Both documents were presented during an April deposition of Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Medical Officer, Joanne Waldstreicher.
A 1973 Johnson & Johnson report also said that they were working with federal officials at their Virginia mine to ensure that their talc was asbestos-free, because samples revealed trace amounts of asbestos fibers.
As part of the lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson has submitted records of asbestos testing beginning in 1972. According to those records, no asbestos was ever found in their baby powder and a spokesperson says that their products have been tested by the FDA and independent researchers frequently over the years.
According to the Chicago Tribune, when Dr. Waldstreicher, J&J’s Chief Medical Officer, was questioned about why the company didn’t warn people today that asbestos was found in their talc in the 70s, she replied that there was a chance testing back then wasn’t as rigorous as today. The Tribune also reports that the plaintiff’s attorney got Dr. Waldstreicher to concede that she would personally want to know if anything she was using potentially contained known carcinogens.
The current class action, filed by 50 women, is still ongoing. Other class action lawsuits have settled or received large verdicts, with one recent verdict of $417 million to a California woman named Eva Echeverria. She claimed her terminal ovarian cancer was linked to use of the company’s baby powder, a product she used daily for several decades.
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