You’ve likely seen commercials involving lawsuits or at least heard the claims that Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder causes cancer. While Johnson & Johnson has always insisted it’s safe, documents recently uncovered by Reuters show the baby powder sometimes contains carcinogenic asbestos — and that the company knew about it for decades.
The news comes after the company shared internal documents and memos with attorneys for nearly 12,000 plaintiffs who say Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder caused their cancers, including thousands of women with ovarian cancer.
While the first reports of tainted Johnson & Johnson baby powder found by Reuters go back to 1957 and 1958, similar findings have been discovered multiple times by the company’s scientists and outside labs.
At least three tests by three different labs from 1972-1975 found asbestos in the powder and at least one case reported the levels as “rather high.” The documents also show company executives, scientists, doctors and lawyers discussed the issue and what to do about it without ever disclosing it to regulators or the public.
Some of the documents include trial testimony from 1999 when the attorney for a woman diagnosed with mesothelioma — cancer in the membranes around the lungs and other organs that is linked to asbestos — suspected the cause was the baby powder and sued Johnson & Johnson. At that time, Johnson & Johnson avoided releasing the documents that Reuters is now using in their investigation, and the lawsuit was dropped due to lack of proof.
According to Reuters, the World Health Organization and other federal authorities recognize no specific safe level of exposure to asbestos. Most people exposed never develop cancer. But for some, being exposed to even small amounts of asbestos are enough to cause the disease, even years later.
Johnson & Johnson has won multiple court cases involving the safety of the powder. The company is currently appealing other cases, including that of a
For a closer examination of the findings and documents uncovered by Reuters, check out their lengthy and eye-opening report.