Last month, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration issued a press announcement alerting the public that traces of asbestos, which are known carcinogens, were detected in a sample of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum Baby Powder. As a result of the announcement, J&J issued a voluntary recall of 33,000 bottles of its 22-oz baby powder. The recall affects J&J Baby Powder lot number #22318RB.
Since then, J&J officials have claimed that no traces of asbestos were detected in 15 additional tests of the bottle that the FDA says tested positive. Meanwhile, the FDA stands by its original findings. The FDA-contracted lab that detected asbestos is run by Laboratory Director Andreas Saldivar, who has served as an expert witness for J&J in litigation on multiple occasions. J&J’s decision to refute the lab’s claims has been called out as casting doubt upon one of its own experts.
J&J’s denial of asbestos being present in its baby powder is unsurprising. In December 2018, new research revealed that since as early as 1971, J&J executives, managers, doctors and lawyers have been aware of trace amounts of harmful asbestos being detected in baby powder. On top of that, J&J officials may have actively covered up product testing results that revealed the presence of asbestos.
How Do Asbestos Contaminate Talcum Baby Powder?
The main ingredient of J&J’s Baby Powder is talcum, which is also known as talc. Talcum is a naturally-occurring clay that is mined from the Earth and used in baby powder to prevent diaper rash. Asbestos are also naturally occurring and can be found in many of the same mines as talcum, which makes it easy for them to enter and contaminate talc products. Asbestos have been linked to serious and sometimes deadly diseases, including lung cancer, a rare type of chest cancer called mesothelioma and asbestosis. While there are not usually immediate health impacts of inhaling asbestos, any of these diseases can emerge from years to decades after being exposed to even a small amount of asbestos.
J&J’s ongoing lack of concern for public health is both alarming and unacceptable. There are currently over 16,000 lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson by plaintiffs who blame asbestos for their cancer diagnoses. With juries awarding asbestos cancer plaintiffs over $5 billion in the past two years alone, there is hope that J&J will be held fully accountable for the harm their contaminated products have caused.
A partner at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP in Boston, J. Tucker Merrigan represents individual clients throughout all of Massachusetts and the United States—concentrating his practice on cases that involve personal injury, defective medical devices, dangerous drugs, wrongful death, premises liability, products liability, medical malpractice, and insurance law. Known for strong client relationships and positive results, Merrigan has been named a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Attorney by National Trial Lawyers from 2015-2018 and named Super Lawyer Rising Star for 2018.