Thirteen days before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it had found traces of cancer-causing asbestos in some bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder, Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Executive Alex Gorsky told an attorney of a cancer victim that its talcum powder was safe, Reuters reported.

“We unequivocally believe that our talc and our baby powder does not contain asbestos,” he testified during an Oct. 3 deposition for a case involving an Indiana man who sued the company over claims that exposure to Johnson’s Baby Powder caused him to develop cancer. He is one of thousands of plaintiffs who claim exposure to J&J’s talc-containing products caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Peritoneal use of talc has been cited as a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. The presence of asbestos only adds to the dangerous impurities that may be lurking within talc-based consumer products. And while evidence shows that Johnson & Johnson has known for years that its talc was contaminated with asbestos, Gorsky testified that “I’m not aware of our baby powder or talc containing asbestos.”

Gorsky was left eating his words less than two weeks later when, on Oct. 18, Johnson & Johnson recalled one lot – about 33,000 bottles – of its 22-ounce bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder after the FDA announced it found trace amounts of asbestos in a sample of J&J powder. The agency has been conducting tests on cosmetic products since 2018 to ensure their safety.

“I understand today’s recall may be concerning to all those individuals who may have used the affected lot of baby powder. I want to assure everyone that the agency takes these concerns seriously and that we are committed to our mandate of protecting the public health,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. “The FDA continues to test cosmetic products that contain talc for the presence of asbestos to protect Americans from potential health risks.”

Beasley Allen lawyers Ted Meadows and Leigh O’Dell are heading up the team handling claims of ovarian cancer linked to talcum powder use for feminine hygiene. Sharon Zinns, who works in Beasley Allen’s Atlanta office, is leading a team handling mesothelioma claims. They are looking at cases of industrial, occupational and secondary asbestos exposure resulting in lung cancer or mesothelioma; as well as claims of asbestos-related talc products linked to mesothelioma.

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