U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a ranking member on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky on Tuesday asking for documents and other information dating back to 1966 regarding the safety of the consumer health care company’s flagship product, Johnson’s Baby Powder. In particular, Sen. Murray wants to know whether the company was aware for decades that the talc it used in its products contained cancer-causing asbestos, as alleged by a recent Reuters investigation.
“Given that the company does not test all of its products before they are sold, how can the company be confident that trace amounts of contaminants are not present in its products?” Sen. Murray posed in the letter.
In December, Reuters published a Special Report in which it claimed J&J was aware that the talc it used in some of its baby powders and body powders from the 1970s through the early 2000s tested positive for asbestos. However, the company never reported the information to regulators nor did it warn consumers.
Asbestos is a mineral mined from the earth in much the same fashion and, sometimes, location, as talc. The use of asbestos was significantly restricted in the 1980s. It had been known for decades at that point that people exposed to asbestos were at greater risk of developing diseases like lung cancer; mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or chest; and the chronic and incurable lung disease asbestosis.
Johnson & Johnson has repeatedly denied that its talcum powder products cause cancer, despite more than 11,700 lawsuits blaming the products for causing cancers like mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. Last July, the company was hit with a record-breaking $4.69 billion verdict in a case brought by 22 women who accused J&J of knowing its talcum powders contained asbestos, which they say led to their ovarian cancer diagnoses.
In December, shortly after the Reuters report was published, Senator Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), a member of the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct an investigation into the allegations raised the Reuters article.
Due to the talc litigation Beasley Allen lawyers have known about the internal studies prepared for Johnson & Johnson. The jurors who have awarded billions of dollars of compensation to women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a result of the carcinogen have seen these same documents. Our Ted Meadows is a leader of the trial team in the ongoing talc litigation, and Leigh O’Dell is serving as co-lead counsel for consolidated multidistrict litigation (MDL) in New Jersey federal court concerning talcum powder’s link to ovarian cancer. Additionally, Beasley Allen lawyer Sharon Zinns is investigating cases of mesothelioma related to asbestos-containing talc products.
U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions