Across the U.S., more than 5,000 lawsuits are being filed accusing Johnson & Johnson’s talc products of causing mesothelioma and other cancers in innocent victims.
Although the company insisted that their products are pure, newly-released documents reveal that the company knew of the presence of asbestos in their talc products for years, as well as of the dangers that the carcinogenic fibers posed.
Internal company memos dating back as far as the 1970s support the claims of mesothelioma victims and ovarian cancer victims who have blamed Johnson and Johnson’s products for their cancers. There have already been several lawsuits resolved, with most juries ruling against the company. The new documents will likely add even more weight to the testimony of victims.
The unsealed documents show a concerted effort by Johnson & Johnson to train employees to insist that the product has never contained asbestos “and never will”, despite the company knowing both that the fibers were there and that they were carcinogenic.
One document was written in May of 1974 specifically addressing the dangers of asbestos found in the company’s Windsor mine in Vermont. The memo’s author refers to the asbestos as “materials presenting a severe health hazard and are potentially present in all talc ores in use at this time.”
Johnson & Johnson denies responsibility for asbestos-causing diseases like mesothelioma and ovarian cancer, but attorneys representing victims have shown that the company both ignored the dangers of the carcinogenic material and aggressively attempted to hide the risks of its use. One woman who filed a lawsuit against J&J was awarded $417 million in damages.
The newly revealed memos are likely to give additional weight to the mesothelioma and ovarian cancer lawsuits against the company. They were presented in a pre-trial deposition to the company’s chief medical officer, Joanne Waldstreicher, who testified that there is no asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talc.
However, the documents showed a report dated 1973 that said that there were two types of asbestos present in the talc. These documents were enough to prompt an official at the time to suggest switching from talc to corn starch.
At the same time, the company reportedly tried to suppress distribution of a booklet that revealed the presence of talc purchased from Italian mines. Their efforts resulted in distribution of the English-version of the booklet being stopped until J&J could rewrite it.
Upon being presented with this information, Ms. Waldstreicher conceded that she herself “would like to be warned before I were around any cancer-causing substance.”
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