J&J Memo On Asbestos Talc Risk Revealed
A recently unsealed “training memo” used in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical company and personal products giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) revealed how company managers instructed employees to reassure anyone concerned about whether the company’s talcum powder contained asbestos that the cancer-causing substance “has never been found and it never will be found” in the company’s famous baby powder.
The Detroit News reports that these newly-unsealed documents “add another dimension to the claims against J&J”, which is currently facing about 5,000 lawsuits nationwide, most forged by women who used the baby powder (and other J&J talcum products) for personal hygiene purposes and later developed ovarian cancer.
They believe – as do many doctors – that their prolonged use of the powder resulted in their cancer diagnosis. J&J has repeatedly disputed those claims.
However, another recently unsealed document shows that the company – or, at least, some higher-ups in the company – knew quite well that the talc – and what was contained within it – was dangerous and could result in health issues for users.
One piece of paperwork dated May 1974 hailed from an official at J&J’s Windsor mine in Vermont. In this memo, the employee recommended “the use of citric acid in the depression of chrysotile asbestos” from talc extracted from the site.
“The use of these systems is strongly urged by this writer 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,” explained the mine’s director of research and development.
There is no indication that his recommendations were heeded.
Tests performed by J&J as far back as 1972 repeatedly show no traces of asbestos in the talc, according to the company. (Talc is often contaminated by asbestos because the two minerals often occur naturally near one another).
Through the decades, the company continued to insist that its talc was “clean”, and it wasn’t until recently that others began to dispute those claims.
Now, these newly-discovered documents can assist lawyers in crafting successful arguments which state that Johnson & Johnson had a history of covering up or simply ignoring the asbestos issue.
So far, courts found in favor of five plaintiffs in their cases against J&J. Most recently, a jury in California awarded a talcum powder-using plaintiff with ovarian cancer a whopping $417 million in damages, the largest award thus far in such a lawsuit. J&J is, of course, appealing.
“Though there will never be a problem with Johnson & Johnson talc, we also endeavor vigorously to keep an eye on all the sources of talc worldwide, which might be used by other powder manufacturers and sold here,’’ company officials said in a recent statement, eager to tell the world how much they can about their customers.