Johnson & Johnson Knew For Decades That Their Baby Powder contained Asbestos

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Here we go again with corporate greed, where Johnson & Johnson’s executives lied to consumers about its baby powder being safe even though there had been studies proving that asbestos was present in small amounts in their product. This fact was covered up even while its executives well aware that women were dying from cancer due to using its famous baby powder.

We’ve all heard that word,  mesothelioma cancer, associated with victims coming in contact with asbestos during their working careers or from living in older homes. In this case the asbestos came disguised in an innocuous looking product, “baby powder.”

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Here is the rest of the story…

On December 14, 2018, Lisa Girion of Reuters penned the following report, “Special Report: J&J knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder”


“(Darlene Coker) knew that her cancer, mesothelioma, arose in the delicate membrane surrounding her lungs and other organs. She knew it was as rare as it was deadly, a signature of exposure to asbestos. And she knew it afflicted mostly men who inhaled asbestos dust in mines and industries such as shipbuilding that used the carcinogen before its risks were understood.”

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“Coker, 52 years old, had raised two daughters and was running a massage school in Lumberton, a small town in eastern Texas. How had she been exposed to asbestos? “She wanted answers,” her daughter Cady Evans said.”

“Fighting for every breath and in crippling pain, Coker hired Herschel Hobson, a personal-injury lawyer. He homed in on a suspect: the Johnson’s Baby Powder that Coker had used on her infant children and sprinkled on herself all her life. Hobson knew that talc and asbestos often occurred together in the earth, and that mined talc could be contaminated with the carcinogen. Coker sued Johnson & Johnson, alleging that “poisonous talc” in the company’s beloved product was her killer.”

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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.”

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.”

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“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.”

“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.”

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: Cady Evans (left) and her sister, Crystal Deckard, surrounded by pictures of their mother, Darlene Coker


“The earliest mentions of tainted J&J talc that Reuters found come from 1957 and 1958 reports by a consulting lab. They describe contaminants in talc from J&J’s Italian supplier as fibrous and “acicular,” or needle-like, tremolite. That’s one of the six minerals that in their naturally occurring fibrous form are classified as asbestos.”

“At various times from then into the early 2000s, reports by scientists at J&J, outside labs and J&J’s supplier yielded similar findings. The reports identify contaminants in talc and finished powder products as asbestos or describe them in terms typically applied to asbestos, such as “fiberform” and “rods.”

“In 1976, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was weighing limits on asbestos in cosmetic talc products, J&J assured the regulator that no asbestos was “detected in any sample” of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973. It didn’t tell the agency 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.”

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“Most internal J&J asbestos test reports Reuters reviewed do not find asbestos. However, while J&J’s testing methods improved over time, they have always had limitations that allow trace contaminants to go undetected – and only a tiny fraction of the company’s talc is tested.”

“The World Health Organization and other authorities recognize no safe level of exposure to asbestos. While most people exposed never develop cancer, for some, even small amounts of asbestos are enough to trigger the disease years later. Just how small hasn’t been established. Many plaintiffs allege that the amounts they inhaled when they dusted themselves with tainted talcum powder were enough.”

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“The evidence of what J&J knew has surfaced after people who suspected that talc caused their cancers hired lawyers experienced in the decades-long deluge of litigation involving workers exposed to asbestos. Some of the lawyers knew from those earlier cases that talc producers tested for asbestos, and they began demanding J&J’s testing documentation.”

“What J&J produced in response to those demands has allowed plaintiffs’ lawyers to refine their argument: The culprit wasn’t necessarily talc itself, but also asbestos in the talc. That assertion, backed by decades of solid science showing that asbestos causes mesothelioma and is associated with ovarian and other cancers, has had mixed success in court.”

“In two cases earlier this year – in New Jersey and California – juries awarded big sums to plaintiffs who, like Coker, blamed asbestos-tainted J&J talc products for their mesothelioma.”

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“A third verdict, in St. Louis, was a watershed, broadening J&J’s potential liability: The 22 plaintiffs were the first to succeed with a claim that asbestos-tainted Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc, a longtime brand the company sold in 2012, caused ovarian cancer, which is much more common than mesothelioma. The jury awarded them $4.69 billion in damages. Most of the talc cases have been brought by women with ovarian cancer who say they regularly used J&J talc products as a perineal antiperspirant and deodorant.”

“At the same time, at least three juries have rejected claims that Baby Powder was tainted with asbestos or caused plaintiffs’ mesothelioma. Others have failed to reach verdicts, resulting in mistrials.”

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J&J has said it will appeal the recent verdicts against it. It has maintained in public statements that its talc is safe, as shown for years by the best tests available, and that the information it has been required to divulge in recent litigation shows the care the company takes to ensure its products are asbestos-free. It has blamed its losses on juror confusion, “junk” science, unfair court rules and overzealous lawyers looking for a fresh pool of asbestos plaintiffs.

“Plaintiffs’ attorneys out for personal financial gain are distorting historical documents and intentionally creating confusion in the courtroom and in the media,” Ernie Knewitz, J&J’s vice president of global media relations, wrote in an emailed response to Reuters’ findings. “This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer. Any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false.”

The company referred all inquiries to its outside litigation counsel, Peter Bicks.

Link to lengthy Reuters report 


  1. shocking. and did every1 hear the orange just approved New russian imports of asbestos? yes in dec 2018. not sure on date
    another fantastic article with a ton of Documentation.
    something that makes me so mad is that there will be no consequences for this. civil suits only allow Money damages. which affects the shareholders.
    no real Person will ever go to jail.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It staggers the mind to know if they had done the right thing, that if they had made sure not to use any source with the asbestos in it, the company would still have made a ton of money. They did not need to cheat or lie. All they had to do was provide a good safe product. But greed will now sully their name with the many needless deaths they caused. Hugs

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dear Scottie,

      There is a company culture that sets in where somehow these corporate executives somehow justify their actions which are indefensible. Now the company Johnson and Johnson is branded as being untrustworthy. So, whenever they have to explain anything in the future, their word ill have little value.. Quality and reliability was part of this company’s reputation and they lost that intangible branding which carries a lot of value.

      They should lose a lot more as they cost the lives of their consumers.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 3 people

      • Gronda, Scottie, the asbestos issue with the EPA is interesting as buildings with asbestos have caused many an insurer to go bankrupt. To forget this risk and say it is manageable is a form of arrogance and short-sightedness, two of the US President’s key attributes.

        I have a friend who called the maintenance crew over to his office when a building crew left a part of the building infrastructure exposed after some work. He said simply, “Here sits a pregnant woman and there is asbestos. What are you going to do about it?” He did move the woman’s work station, but his theatrics reveal the needed urgency. Keith

        Liked by 2 people

        • Dear Keith,

          Thanks for sharing. Asbestos is a serious issue. I’m tired of corporation executives getting away with withholding crucial data / and or lying about the data to consumers were lives are lost/ ruined.

          There have been so many examples of this like with Pardue Pharma Mfg. where executives claimed that their product OXYCONTIN was non-addictive; GM 2014 ignition switches’ recall that cost consumers’ lives when executives knew about design flaw for years; the tobacco companies which misled public about the dangers of smoking. There’s the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal; the 2014 Wells Fargo fraudulent activities.

          Hugs, Gronda


    • Dear Tokyosand,

      It seems that the GOP lawmakers are doing the bidding of corporate America. It’s no wonder they are resorting to cheating, being sore losers where GOP lame duck legislators are trying to snuff out the voices of the voters. They are working overtime to steal from us the power of our vote.

      They are about to learn what our US democracy is all about and that “we the people” are not about to sit back and not act.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Gronda, this is sad and infuriating. Just to recap three stories, from their own records – Johnson & Johnson knew for decades their talcum powder was at risk, cigarette companies knew for decades that nicotine was addictive and petroleum companies knew for decades that climate change would be an issue increased by the burning of fossil fuels. Lying about this has harmed and even killed people. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Dear Keith,

    Who I feel sorry for are the employees who work for these corporate executives who don’t appear to give a damn about the suffering their negligence causes their consumers and families.

    You’re right in that the cigarette company executives didn’t give a hoot about how their products wreaked havoc on their customers’ health. The fossil fuel company executives like the Koch brothers probably don’t care that they will some day be written up in history books, as the business leaders who were willing to destroy a planet for a few extra dollars.

    These greedy business leaders suffer from an inflated sense of entitlement.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 3 people

    • Gronda, many things trouble me about these stories. Eight cigarette company CEOs sat in front of a Congressional committee and lied under oath to direct questions about nicotine’s addictiveness. In Exxon and Shell’s own files are scientific research and external presentations about the danger of climate change and greenhouse gasses – Shell even did an educational video on the subject. Not ironically, the same PR firm who helped the cigarette industry aided Exxon and others when they ditched their own papers has publicized the climate change denial BS.

      As for J&J, they know better. This a product for babies and women for goodness sake. They deserve the scrutiny they are getting. Like with Exxon, shareholders may sue the company for misleading them. Keith

      Liked by 2 people

  5. This is yet one more abomination perpetrated against consumers for the sake of extra profit in the pockets of the already-wealthy. I’ve said before … we average blokes no longer matter. As an addition to Steve Herzfeld’s comment, I found a statement Trump was quoted on in 1997: “I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented.” Surprised?


    Liked by 4 people

    • Dear Jill,

      All I know is that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near an area where “asbestos” was present and neither would President Trump. If he’s so sure of the safety of asbestos, he ought to use it in the White House. I wouldn’t object.

      With absolute certainty, I would not purchase a product for personal use that contained even minute traces of asbestos and of course, Johnson and Johnson is well aware of this reality. This is a company that’s going downhill because its reputation is being thrashed.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 1 person

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