Days after Johnson & Johnson recalled more than 30,000 containers of its iconic Johnson’s Baby Powder due to the presence of asbestos, the consumer health care giant’s shares plummeted 6.2%, the biggest one-day drop in 10 months.
The announcement comes as Johnson & Johnson defends itself against a growing number of lawsuits alleging its talcum powder products cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Many of those cases name asbestos contamination as the culprit. Asbestos is a known carcinogen that is mined from the earth in similar fashion and in proximity to talc.
Johnson & Johnson has consistently denied that its talcum powder is dangerous. But the recall paints a different story. Testing conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on talcum powder cosmetics and other consumer products revealed traces of chrysotile fibers, a type of asbestos, in some of J&J’s baby powder. The agency warned consumers to stop using Johnson’s Baby Powder Lot#22318RB.
J&J Chief Financial Officer Joseph Wolk assured investors during a conference call that the company plans to fight – and win – the more than 100,000 lawsuits it faces involving its drugs, consumer products and medical devices. About 15,500 of those lawsuits involve cancer claims with J&J talc-containing products.
Attorneys representing plaintiffs in the talc litigation say that Johnson & Johnson has known for years that its talc may be contaminated with asbestos and the company should have acted decades ago to protect consumers.
“This recall is a stunning admission by Johnson & Johnson after years of denial about the cancer risks from Baby Powder. The FDA’s tests confirm the presence of cancer-causing asbestos, and J&J’s internal documents show the company has known about this danger for many years,” said Ted Meadows of the Beasley Allen Law Firm. “Had J&J acted responsibly and removed Baby Powder from the market in the 1970s, the lives of thousands of women would have been saved.”