Earlier this month, Johnson & Johnson, one of the biggest names in baby care, has been facing backlash after an investigative report by Reuters stated that the company had known for decades that their Baby Powder was tainted with carcinogenic asbestos and kept the information from both regulators and the public.
In 1999, the company was sued by Darlene Coker, a Texan woman who had cancer because of exposure to asbestos, alleged that their product was to blame. Johnson & Johnson denied the claim and avoided having to hand over internal company documents. Coker had to drop the case. The case continued to haunt the company for many years after.
In December 2018, Johnson & Johnson was compelled to share these documents as 11,700 plaintiffs claimed the talc product caused their cancers. Reuters examined these documents as part of their report and revealed that from 1971 to the early 2000s, some of the company’s talc powders had tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that the management had failed to disclose it and address the problem.
In addition, the report revealed that, the company had successfully influenced U.S. regulators’ plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc. There is still a large portion of the documents that have not been made public yet.
Johnson & Johnson has denied all claims against their products and state that asbestos was only found in talc meant for industrial uses. The company’s stock price has also tanked as a result of the proceedings. The company has said they will appeal all the recent verdicts against it.
For some people, even small amounts of asbestos is enough to trigger disease years later. As per the World Health Organization, there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
On December 19th, 2018, the company lost a motion to overturn a jury verdict that awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $500 million in compensation.
Despite reports, the company has gone on to launch a national ad campaign telling the public that their baby powders are completely safe.
India’s drug regulators, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have decided to turn the heat on the company and have started collecting samples from various facilities to conduct a full test. As per a Times of India report, regulators have ordered the company’s Mumbai and Himachal Pradesh facilities to stop using the available raw materials to produce talc effective immediately.