Asbestos is a flame-retardant natural material mined from the earth. For years, people have known that prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause a cancer called mesothelioma. In recent years, there have been many lawsuits from people who suffered from cancer after being exposed to asbestos at work. More recently, concerns over asbestos exposure from common household products, such as talcum powder, has become a major concern.
Talcum Powder and Asbestos
Talcum powder is a mineral mined from the ground. It is used in many products to absorb moisture and prevent friction. Due to these properties, talcum powder has been used for years in baby powder as a way to prevent diaper rash. For decades, talcum powder has been a common ingredient in Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder.
However, talcum powder can sometimes have trace amounts of asbestos in it. In 2016, a woman sued Johnson & Johnson, charging that their baby powder caused her ovarian cancer. Numerous others have come forward to allege that Johnson & Johnson is responsible for their mesothelioma cancer. News of the company’s early knowledge about their product was released to the public via court documents in 2018. These documents provided proof that the company knew about the asbestos contamination since at least 1971, possibly sooner.
Johnson & Johnson Lawsuits
Founded in 1886, Johnson & Johnson is an American-based company with a multi-billion dollar revenue. It is a Fortune 500 company in the U.S., but distributes products globally. J&J makes many cosmetic products in which talcum powder is an ingredient. J&J’s talc supplier is Imerys Talc of America.
In 2013, the first talcum powder trial was held in a South Dakota federal district court. Though J&J was found negligent in that suit, the plaintiff was not awarded damages. However, numerous other cases have garnered large settlements. In 2017, a California court ordered a record amount of $417 million in damages to a cancer patient. In 2018, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay over $4 billion to a group of plaintiffs and their surviving family members. While J&J appealed the decision, they continue to face lawsuits from thousands of other plaintiffs.
As of December 2018, Johnson & Johnson has alleged that their products are safe and asbestos-free. However, after the public release of J&J documents revealing its knowledge of asbestos contamination, some people have looked less favorably on the company. On December 14, 2018, the company saw a 10% drop in shares. While its stock still shows potential to rebound, new lawsuits are pending.