Thousands claim Johnson & Johnson talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer
Thousands of women with ovarian cancer are claiming Johnson & Johnson (J&J) baby talcum powder caused their disease, it is reported.
According to the news agency Reuters, J&J knew for decades that there was asbestos in baby talcum powder.
Their report told how after successfully defending a lawsuit over asbestos in 1999, J&J have now been compelled to hand over thousands of pages of company memos, internal reports and other confidential documents.
These are being shared 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.
Shares of Johnson & Johnson fell 10 percent today and were on track to post their biggest percentage drop in more than 16 years after the report.
But J&J have denied the claims, releasing a statement today hitting out at the Reuters report.
Their statement said: "The Reuters article is one-sided, false and inflammatory. Simply put, the Reuters story is an absurd conspiracy theory, in that it apparently has spanned over 40 years, orchestrated among generations of global regulators, the world’s foremost scientists and universities, leading independent labs, and J&J employees themselves.
"Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free. Studies of more than 100,000 men and women show that talc does not cause cancer or asbestos-related disease.
"Thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove our baby powder has never contained asbestos."
J&J’s effort to protect its iconic Baby Powder franchise by shaping research was led by physician and scientist executives.
Reuters said an examination of many 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.
Not just that but 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 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.
In July J&J were ordered to pay more than £3.5 billion to 22 women who claim the firm’s talc gave them cancer.
Many plaintiffs allege that the amounts they inhaled when they dusted themselves with tainted talcum powder were enough.
The evidence 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.
Talc, the world’s softest rock, is a mineral closely linked to asbestos and the two substances can appear in close proximity in the earth.
Plaintiffs claim the two can become intermingled in the mining process, making it impossible to remove the carcinogenic substance.
J&J denies those allegations, saying rigorous testing and purification processes ensure its talc is clean.
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