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Special Report: Johnson & Johnson knew for many years that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Darlene Coker knew she was once death. She just sought after to grasp why.

She knew that her cancer, mesothelioma, arose within the subtle membrane surrounding her lungs and different organs. She knew it was once as uncommon because it was once fatal, a signature of publicity to asbestos. And she knew it troubled most commonly males who inhaled asbestos mud in mines and industries such as shipbuilding that used the carcinogen before its dangers have been understood.

Coker, 52 years previous, had raised two daughters and was once operating a therapeutic massage faculty in Lumberton, a small the town in jap Texas. How had she been uncovered to asbestos? “She wanted answers,” her daughter Cady Evans mentioned.

Fighting for each breath and in crippling ache, Coker employed Herschel Hobson, a personal-injury legal professional. He homed in on a suspect: the Johnson’s Baby Powder that Coker had used on her toddler kids and sprinkled on herself all her lifestyles. Hobson knew that talc and asbestos ceaselessly befell in combination within the earth, and that mined talc could be infected with the carcinogen. Coker sued Johnson & Johnson, alleging that “poisonous talc” within the corporate’s loved product was once her killer.

J&J denied the claim. Baby Powder was once asbestos-free, it mentioned. As the case proceeded, J&J was once in a position to keep away from turning in talc take a look at results and different inner corporate data Hobson had asked to make the case against Baby Powder.

Coker had no selection however to drop her lawsuit, Hobson mentioned. “When you are the plaintiff, you have the burden of proof,” he mentioned. “We didn’t have it.”

That was once in 1999. Two many years later, the material Coker and her legal professional sought is rising as J&J has been forced to percentage 1000’s of pages of corporate memos, inner stories and different confidential paperwork with attorneys for one of the vital 11,700 plaintiffs now claiming that the corporate’s talc led to their cancers — including 1000’s of girls with ovarian cancer.

A Reuters exam of lots of the ones paperwork, in addition to deposition and trial testimony, presentations that from a minimum of 1971 to the early 2000s, the corporate’s uncooked talc and completed powders every now and then examined certain for small quantities of asbestos, and that corporate executives, mine managers, scientists, medical doctors and attorneys fretted over the problem and how you can deal with it whilst failing to expose it to regulators or the general public.

The paperwork additionally depict a success efforts to persuade U.S. regulators’ plans to restrict asbestos in beauty talc merchandise and medical analysis at the health results of talc.

A small portion of the paperwork were produced at trial and cited in media stories. Many have been protected against public view by way of courtroom orders that allowed J&J to show over 1000’s of paperwork it designated as confidential. Much in their contents is reported right here for the first time.


The earliest mentions of tainted J&J talc that Reuters discovered come from 1957 and 1958 stories by way of a consulting lab. They describe contaminants in talc from J&J’s Italian provider as fibrous and “acicular,” or needle-like, tremolite. That’s one of the most six minerals that of their naturally going on fibrous form are labeled as asbestos.

At quite a lot of instances from then into the early 2000s, stories by way of scientists at J&J, outdoor labs and J&J’s provider yielded identical findings. The stories establish contaminants in talc and completed powder merchandise as asbestos or describe them in terms usually implemented to asbestos, such as “fiberform” and “rods.”

In 1976, because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was once weighing limits on asbestos in beauty talc merchandise, J&J confident the regulator that no asbestos was once “detected in any sample” of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973. It didn’t inform the company that a minimum of 3 checks by way of 3 other labs from 1972 to 1975 had discovered asbestos in its talc – in a single case at ranges reported as “rather high.”

Most inner J&J asbestos take a look at stories Reuters reviewed don’t in finding asbestos. However, whilst J&J’s trying out strategies stepped forward over the years, they’ve all the time had boundaries that permit hint contaminants to move undetected – and just a tiny fraction of the corporate’s talc is examined.

The World Health Organization and different government recognise no safe stage of publicity to asbestos. While the general public uncovered by no means expand cancer, for some, even small quantities of asbestos are sufficient to cause the illness years later. Just how small hasn’t been established. Many plaintiffs allege that the quantities they inhaled once they dusted themselves with tainted talcum powder have been sufficient.

The proof of what J&J knew has surfaced after individuals who suspected that talc led to their cancers employed attorneys skilled within the decades-long deluge of litigation involving employees uncovered to asbestos. Some of the attorneys knew from the ones previous circumstances that talc manufacturers examined for asbestos, and so they started hard J&J’s trying out documentation.

What J&J produced according to the ones calls for has allowed plaintiffs’ attorneys to refine their argument: The wrongdoer wasn’t essentially talc itself, but additionally asbestos within the talc. That statement, subsidized by way of many years of cast science appearing that asbestos reasons mesothelioma and is related to ovarian and different cancers, has had blended good fortune in courtroom.

In two circumstances previous this year – in New Jersey and California – juries awarded giant sums to plaintiffs who, like Coker, blamed asbestos-tainted J&J talc merchandise for his or her mesothelioma.

A 3rd verdict, in St. Louis, was once a watershed, broadening J&J’s possible legal responsibility: The 22 plaintiffs have been the first to be triumphant with a claim that asbestos-tainted Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc, an established emblem the corporate bought in 2012, led to ovarian cancer, which is a lot more not unusual than mesothelioma. The jury awarded them $4.69 billion in damages. Most of the talc circumstances were introduced by way of ladies with ovarian cancer who say they often used J&J talc merchandise as a perineal antiperspirant and deodorant.

At the similar time, a minimum of 3 juries have rejected claims that Baby Powder was once tainted with asbestos or led to plaintiffs’ mesothelioma. Others have failed to achieve verdicts, leading to mistrials.


J&J has mentioned it’ll attraction the new verdicts against it. It has maintained in public statements that its talc is safe, as proven for years by way of the most productive checks to be had, and that the ideas it’s been required to expose in fresh litigation presentations the care the corporate takes to make sure its merchandise are asbestos-free. It has blamed its losses on juror confusion, “junk” science, unfair courtroom regulations and overzealous attorneys searching for a contemporary pool of asbestos plaintiffs.

“Plaintiffs’ attorneys out for personal financial gain are distorting historical documents and intentionally creating confusion in the courtroom and in the media,” Ernie Knewitz, J&J’s vice president of global media family members, wrote in an emailed reaction to Reuters’ findings. “This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer. Any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false.”

J&J declined to remark additional for this text. For greater than two months, it grew to become down repeated requests for an interview with J&J executives. On Dec. 8, the corporate presented to make knowledgeable to be had. It had now not achieved in order of Thursday night.

The corporate referred all questions to its outdoor litigation suggest, Peter Bicks. In emailed responses, Bicks rejected Reuters’ findings as “false and misleading.” “The scientific consensus is that the talc used in talc-based body powders does not cause cancer, regardless of what is in that talc,” Bicks wrote. “This is true even if – and it does not – Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc had ever contained minute, undetectable amounts of asbestos.” He disregarded checks cited on this article as “outlier” results.

In courtroom, J&J attorneys have instructed jurors that corporate data appearing that asbestos was once detected in its talc referred to talc supposed for business use. Other data, they’ve argued, referred to non-asbestos forms of the similar minerals that their mavens say are innocuous. J&J has additionally argued that some checks picked up “background” asbestos – stray fibres that could have infected samples after floating right into a mill or lab from a vehicle snatch or fraying insulation.

The corporate has made one of the vital identical arguments about lab checks carried out by way of mavens employed by way of plaintiffs. One of the ones labs discovered asbestos in Shower to Shower talc from the 1990s, in step with an Aug. 11, 2017, courtroom record. Another lab discovered asbestos in additional than part of a couple of samples of Baby Powder from previous many years – in bottles from plaintiffs’ cabinets and purchased from eBay, or even a 1978 bottle held in J&J’s company museum. The concentrations have been nice sufficient that customers “would have, more likely than not, been exposed,” the plaintiffs’ lab record introduced in different circumstances this year concluded.

Matthew Sanchez, a geologist with experts RJ Lee Group Inc and a common skilled witness for J&J, disregarded the ones findings in testimony within the St. Louis trial: “I have not found asbestos in any of the current or modern, what I consider modern, Johnson & Johnson talc products,” Sanchez instructed the jury.

Sanchez didn’t go back calls looking for remark. RJ Lee mentioned it does now not remark at the paintings it does for shoppers.

Since 2003, talc in Baby Powder bought within the United States has come from China thru provider Imerys Talc America, a unit of Paris-based Imerys SA and a co-defendant in many of the talc litigation. Imerys and J&J mentioned the Chinese talc is safe. An Imerys spokesman mentioned the corporate’s checks “consistently show no asbestos. Talc’s safe use has been confirmed by multiple regulatory and scientific bodies.”

J&J, founded in New Brunswick, New Jersey, has ruled the talc powder marketplace for greater than 100 years, its gross sales outpacing the ones of all competition blended, in step with Euromonitor International information. And whilst talc merchandise contributed just $420 million to J&J’s $76.Five billion in income final year, Baby Powder is considered an very important side of the healthcare-products maker’s moderately tended symbol as a worrying corporate – a “sacred cow,” as one 2003 inner e-mail put it.

“When people really understand what’s going on, I think it increases J&J’s exposure a thousand-fold,” mentioned Mark Lanier, one of the most attorneys for the ladies within the St. Louis case.

The mounting controversy surrounding J&J talc hasn’t shaken buyers. The percentage price is up about 6 p.c to this point this year. Talc circumstances make up fewer than 10 p.c of all own damage court cases pending against J&J, in response to the corporate’s Aug. 2 quarterly record, through which the corporate mentioned it believed it had “strong grounds on appeal.”

J&J Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky has pledged to fight on, telling analysts in July: “We remain confident that our products do not contain asbestos.”

Gorsky’s remark, echoed in numerous J&J statements, misses a an important level. Asbestos, like many environmental cancer causing agents, has a protracted latency duration. Diagnosis normally comes years after preliminary publicity – 20 years or longer for mesothelioma. J&J talc merchandise as of late is also safe, however the talc at factor in 1000’s of court cases was once bought and used during the last 60 years.


In 1886, Robert Wood Johnson enlisted his more youthful brothers in an eponymous startup constructed across the “Safety First” motto. Johnson’s Baby Powder grew out of a line of medicated plasters, sticky rubber strips loaded with mustard and different home therapies. When shoppers complained of pores and skin inflammation, the brothers despatched packets of talc.

Soon, moms started making use of the talc to babies’ diaper-chafed pores and skin. The Johnsons took be aware. They added a perfume that might turn into one of the crucial recognizable on this planet, sifted the talc into tin containers and, in 1893, started promoting it as Johnson’s Baby Powder.

In the past due 1950s, J&J came upon that talc from its leader supply mine for the U.S. marketplace within the Italian Alps contained tremolite. That’s certainly one of six minerals – at the side of chrysotile, actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite and crocidolite – that happen in nature as crystalline fibres referred to as asbestos, a recognised carcinogen. Some of them, including tremolite, additionally happen as unremarkable “non-asbestiform” rocks. Both forms ceaselessly happen in combination and in talc deposits.

J&J’s fear on the time was once that contaminants made the corporate’s powder abrasive. It despatched lots of its Italian talc to a non-public lab in Columbus, Ohio, to seek out tactics to enhance the semblance, really feel and purity of the powder by way of putting off as a lot “grit” as imaginable. In a couple of news from 1957 and 1958, the lab mentioned the talc contained “from less than 1 percent to about 3 percent of contaminants,” described as most commonly fibrous and “acicular” tremolite.

Most of the authors of those and different J&J data cited on this article are lifeless. Sanchez, the RJ Lee geologist whose company has agreed to offer him as a witness in as much as 100 J&J talc trials, has testified that tremolite discovered many years in the past within the corporate’s talc, from Italy and later Vermont, was once now not tremolite asbestos in any respect. Rather, he has mentioned, it was once “cleavage fragments” from non-asbestiform tremolite.

J&J’s unique data don’t all the time make that difference. In terms of health possibility, regulators for the reason that early 1970s have handled small fibre-shaped debris of each forms the similar.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, “makes no distinction between fibres and (comparable) cleavage fragments,” company officials wrote in a reaction to an RJ Lee record on an unrelated subject in 2006, the year before the company employed Sanchez. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), even though it dropped the non-fibrous forms of the minerals from its definition of asbestos in 1992, nevertheless recommends that fibre-shaped fragments indistinguishable from asbestos be counted in its publicity checks.

And because the product protection director for J&J’s talc provider stated in a 2008 e-mail to colleagues: “(I)f a deposit contains ‘non-asbestiform’ tremolite, there is also asbestiform tremolite naturally present as well.”


In 1964, J&J’s Windsor Minerals Inc subsidiary purchased a cluster of talc mines in Vermont, with names like Argonaut, Rainbow, Frostbite and Black Bear. By 1966, it was once blasting and bulldozing white rock out of the Green Mountain state. J&J used the milled powder in its beauty powders and bought a less-refined grade to roofing, ground and tire companies to be used in production.

Ten years after tremolite grew to become up within the Italian talc, it confirmed up in Vermont talc, too. In 1967, J&J discovered lines of tremolite and every other mineral that may happen as asbestos, in step with a desk hooked up to a Nov. 1, 1967, memo by way of William Ashton, the chief in control of J&J’s talc provide for many years.

J&J persisted to seek for assets of fresh talc. But in an April 9, 1969, memo to an organization physician, Ashton mentioned it was once “normal” to seek out tremolite in lots of U.S. talc deposits. He prompt J&J reconsider its method. “Historically, in our Company, Tremolite has been bad,” Ashton wrote. “How bad is Tremolite medically, and how much of it can safely be in a talc base we might develop?”

Since pulmonary illness, including cancer, gave the impression to be on the upward thrust, “it would seem to be prudent to limit any possible content of Tremolite … to an absolute minimum,” got here the answer from every other doctor govt days later.

The physician instructed Ashton that J&J was once receiving protection questions from paediatricians. Even Robert Wood Johnson II, the founder’s son and then-retired CEO, had expressed “concern over the possibility of the adverse effects on the lungs of babies or mothers,” he wrote.

“We have replied,” the physician wrote, that “we would not regard the usage of our powders as presenting any hazard.” Such assurances can be not possible, he added, “if we do include Tremolite in more than unavoidable trace amounts.”

The memo is the earliest J&J record reviewed by way of Reuters that discusses tremolite as greater than a scratchy nuisance. The physician instructed Ashton to visit corporate attorneys as a result of “it is not inconceivable that we could become involved in litigation.”


By the early 1970s, asbestos was once broadly recognised as the main explanation for mesothelioma amongst employees fascinated by generating it and in industries that used it of their merchandise.

Regulation was once within the air. In 1972, President Richard Nixon’s newly created OSHA issued its first rule, atmosphere limits on place of business publicity to asbestos mud.

By then, a team at Mount Sinai Medical Center led by way of pre-eminent asbestos researcher Irving Selikoff had began having a look at talcum powders as a imaginable technique to a puzzle: Why have been checks of lung tissue taken submit mortem from New Yorkers who by no means labored with asbestos finding indicators of the mineral? Since talc deposits are ceaselessly laced with asbestos, the scientists reasoned, perhaps talcum powders performed a job.

They shared their initial findings with New York City’s environmental coverage leader, Jerome Kretchmer. On June 29, 1971, Kretchmer knowledgeable the Nixon management and known as a press convention to announce that two unidentified manufacturers of beauty talc gave the impression to comprise asbestos.

The FDA opened an inquiry. J&J issued a commentary: “Our fifty years of research knowledge in this area indicates that there is no asbestos contained in the powder manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.”

Later that year, every other Mount Sinai researcher, mineralogist Arthur Langer, instructed J&J in a letter that the team had discovered a “relatively small” amount of chrysotile asbestos in Baby Powder.

Langer, Selikoff and Kretchmer ended up on a J&J record of “antagonistic personalities” in a Nov. 29, 1972, memo, which described Selikoff because the chief of an “attack on talc.”

“I suppose I was antagonistic,” Langer instructed Reuters. Even so, in a next take a look at of J&J powders in 1976, he didn’t in finding asbestos – a outcome that Mount Sinai introduced.

Langer mentioned he instructed J&J attorneys who visited him final year that he stood by way of all of his findings. J&J has now not known as him as a witness.

Selikoff died in 1992. Kretchmer mentioned he lately learn {that a} jury had concluded that Baby Powder was once infected with asbestos. “I mentioned to myself, ‘How come it took so long?’ “ he mentioned.

In July 1971, in the meantime, J&J despatched a delegation of scientists to Washington to speak to the FDA officials having a look into asbestos in talcum powders. According to an FDA account of the assembly, J&J shared “proof that their talc comprises lower than 1%, if any, asbestos.”

Later that month, Wilson Nashed, one of the most J&J scientists who visited the FDA, mentioned in a memo to the corporate’s public family members division that J&J’s talc contained hint quantities of “fibrous minerals (tremolite/actinolite).”


As the FDA persisted to research asbestos in talc, J&J despatched powder samples to be examined at non-public and college labs. Though a non-public lab in Chicago discovered hint quantities of tremolite, it declared the amount “insignificant” and the samples “substantially free of asbestiform material.” J&J reported that finding to the FDA under a canopy letter that mentioned the “results clearly show” the samples examined “contain no chrysotile asbestos.” J&J’s legal professional instructed Reuters the tremolite discovered within the samples was once now not asbestos.

But J&J’s FDA submission disregarded University of Minnesota professor Thomas E. Hutchinson’s finding of chrysotile in a Shower to Shower pattern – “incontrovertible asbestos,” as he described it in a lab be aware.

The FDA’s personal examinations discovered no asbestos in J&J powder samples within the 1f970s. Those checks, alternatively, didn’t use essentially the most delicate detection strategies. An early take a look at, for instance, was once incapable of detecting chrysotile fibres, as an FDA reputable recognised in a J&J account of an Aug. 11, 1972, assembly with the company: “I understand that some samples will be passed even though they contain such fibres, but we are willing to live with it.”

By 1973, Tom Shelley, director of J&J’s Central Research Laboratories in New Jersey, was once having a look into obtaining patents on a procedure {that a} British mineralogist and J&J marketing consultant was once growing to split talc from tremolite.

“It is quite possible that eventually tremolite will be prohibited in all talc,” Shelley wrote on Feb. 20, 1973, to a British colleague. Therefore, he added, the “process may well be valuable property to us.”

At the top of March, Shelley recognised the sensitivity of the plan in a memo despatched to a J&J legal professional in New Jersey: “We will want to carefully consider the … patents re asbestos in talc. It’s quite possible that we may wish to keep the whole thing confidential rather than allow it to be published in patent form and thus let the whole world know.”

J&J didn’t download the patents.

While Shelley was once having a look into the patents, J&J analysis director DeWitt Petterson visited the corporate’s Vermont mining operation. “Occasionally, sub-trace quantities of tremolite or actinolite are identifiable,” he wrote in an April 1973 record at the seek advice from. “And these might be classified as asbestos fibre.”

J&J will have to “protect our powder franchise” by way of getting rid of as many tiny fibres that may be inhaled in airborn talc mud as imaginable, Petterson wrote. He warned, alternatively, that “no final product will ever be made which will be totally free from respirable particles.” Introducing a cornstarch model of Baby Powder, he famous, “is obviously another answer.”

Bicks instructed Reuters that J&J believes that the tremolite and actinolite Petterson cited weren’t asbestos.

Cornstarch got here up again in a March 5, 1974, record through which Ashton, the J&J talc provide leader, advisable that the corporate analysis that choice “for defensive reasons” as a result of “the thrust against talc has centred primarily on biological problems alleged to result from the inhalation of talc and related mineral particles.”


A couple of months after Petterson’s popularity that talc purity was once a pipe dream, the FDA proposed a rule that talc utilized in medication comprise not more than 0.1 p.c asbestos. While the company’s cosmetics department was once taking into consideration identical action on talcum powders, it requested companies to signify trying out strategies.

At the time, J&J’s Baby Powder franchise was once eating 20,000 lots of Vermont talc a year. J&J pressed the FDA to approve an X-ray scanning methodology that an organization scientist mentioned in an April 1973 memo allowed for “an automatic 1% tolerance for asbestos.” That would imply talc with as much as 10 instances the FDA’s proposed restrict for asbestos in medication could move muster.

The identical scientist confided in an Oct. 23, 1973, be aware to a colleague that, relying on what take a look at the FDA followed for detecting asbestos in beauty talc, “we may have problems.”

The highest strategy to locate asbestos in talc was once to pay attention the pattern after which read about it thru microscopes, the Colorado School of Mines Research Institute instructed J&J in a Dec. 27, 1973, record. In a memo, a J&J lab manager mentioned the focus methodology, which the corporate’s personal researchers had previous used to spot a “tremolite-type” asbestos in Vermont talc, had one limitation: “It may be too sensitive.”

In his e-mail to Reuters, J&J’s legal professional mentioned the lab manager’s worry was once that the take a look at would lead to “false positives,” appearing asbestos the place there was once none.

J&J additionally introduced analysis to learn how a lot powder a toddler was once uncovered to all over a diapering and what kind of asbestos could be in that powder and remain inside OSHA’s new place of business publicity limits. Its researchers had strapped an air sampling software to a doll to take measurements whilst it was once powdered, in step with J&J memos and the mins of a Feb. 19, 1974, assembly of the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA), an trade staff.

“It was calculated that even if talc were pure asbestos the levels of exposure of a baby during a normal powdering are far below the accepted tolerance limits,” the mins state.

In a Sept. 6, 1974, letter, J&J instructed the FDA that since “a substantial safety factor can be expected” with talc that comprises 1 p.c asbestos, “methods capable of determining less than 1% asbestos in talc are not necessary to assure the safety of cosmetic talc.”

Not everybody on the FDA concept that basing a detection approach on such a calculation was once a good suggestion. One reputable known as it “foolish,” including, in step with a J&J account of a February 1975 assembly: “No mother was going to powder her baby with 1% of a known carcinogen irregardless of the large safety factor.”


Having failed to steer the FDA that as much as 1 p.c asbestos contamination was once tolerable, J&J started selling self-policing as an alternative choice to law. The centrepiece of this method was once a March 15, 1976, bundle of letters from J&J and different producers that the CTFA gave to the company to turn that that they had succeeded at getting rid of asbestos from beauty talc.

“The attached letters demonstrate responsibility of industry in monitoring its talcs,” the quilt letter mentioned. “We are certain that the summary will give you assurance as to the freedom from contamination by asbestos for materials of cosmetic talc products.”

In its letter, J&J mentioned samples of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973 have been examined for asbestos, and none was once detected “in any sample.”

Darlene Coker is proven on a kitchen desk full of many own footage of her circle of relatives lifestyles in California, U.S. August 15, 2018. Picture taken August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

J&J didn’t inform the FDA a couple of 1974 take a look at by way of a professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire that grew to become up asbestos in talc from J&J – “fiberform” actinolite, as he put it. Nor did the corporate inform the FDA a couple of 1975 record from its longtime lab that discovered debris recognized as “asbestos fibres” in 5 of 17 samples of talc from the executive supply mine for Baby Powder. “Some of them seem rather high,” the personal lab wrote in its quilt letter.

Bicks, the J&J legal professional, mentioned the contract lab’s results have been inappropriate for the reason that talc was once supposed for business use. He mentioned the corporate now believes that the actinolite the Dartmouth professor discovered “was not asbestiform,” in response to its interpretation of a photograph within the unique lab record.

Just two months after the Dartmouth professor reported his findings, Windsor Minerals Research and Development Manager Vernon Zeitz wrote that chrysotile, “fibrous anthophyllite” and different sorts of asbestos have been “found in association with the Hammondsville ore body” – the Vermont deposit that provided Baby Powder talc for greater than twenty years.

Zeitz’s May 1974 record on efforts to attenuate asbestos in Vermont talc “strongly urged” the adoption of the way to give protection to “against what are currently considered to be materials presenting a severe health hazard and are potentially present in all talc ores in use at this time.”

Bicks mentioned that Zeitz was once now not reporting on exact take a look at results.

The following year, Zeitz reported that in response to weekly checks of talc samples over six months, “it can be stated with a greater than 99.9% certainty that the ores and materials produced from the ores at all Windsor Mineral locations are free from asbestos or asbestiform minerals.”


J&J’s selective use of take a look at results figured in a New Jersey pass judgement on’s resolution this year to confirm the first verdict against the corporate in a case claiming asbestos in J&J merchandise led to cancer. “Providing the FDA favourable results showing no asbestos and withholding or failing to provide unfavourable results, which show asbestos, is a form of a misrepresentation by omission,” Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Ana Viscomi mentioned in her June ruling.

“J&J respectfully disagrees with the Judge’s comments,” Bicks mentioned. “J&J did not withhold any relevant testing from FDA.”

The FDA declined to remark at the ruling.

Lacking consensus on trying out strategies, the FDA postponed action to restrict asbestos in talc. Years later, it did set limits on asbestos in talc utilized in medication. It hasn’t ever restricted asbestos in beauty talc or established a most popular approach for detecting it.

Instead, in 1976, a CTFA committee chaired by way of a J&J govt drafted voluntary tips, organising a form of X-ray scanning with a zero.Five p.c detection restrict as the main take a look at, the process J&J most popular. The approach isn’t designed to locate essentially the most frequently used form of asbestos, chrysotile, in any respect. The staff mentioned the extra delicate electron microscopy was once impractical.

The CTFA, which now does business because the Personal Care Products Council, declined to remark.

X-ray scanning is the main approach J&J has used for many years. The corporate additionally periodically calls for the extra delicate assessments with electron microscopes. J&J’s legal professional mentioned the corporate’s checks exceed the business affiliation same old, and so they do. He additionally mentioned that as of late, J&J’s X-ray scans can locate suspect minerals at ranges as little as 0.1 p.c of a pattern.

But the corporate by no means followed the Colorado lab’s 1973 advice that samples be concentrated before exam under a microscope. And the talc samples that have been subjected to essentially the most delicate electron microscopy take a look at have been a tiny fraction of what was once bought. For the ones and different causes, J&J couldn’t ensure its Baby Powder was once asbestos-free when plaintiffs used it, in step with mavens, including some who testified for plaintiffs.

As early as 1976, Ashton, J&J’s longtime talc overseer, recognised as a lot in a memo to colleagues. He wrote that talc normally, if subjected to essentially the most delicate trying out approach, the use of concentrated samples, “will be hard pressed in supporting purity claims.” He described this kind of trying out as each “sophisticated” and “disturbing.”


By 1977, J&J gave the impression to have tamped down issues in regards to the protection of talc. An inner August record on J&J’s “Defense of Talc Safety” campaign famous that impartial government had deemed beauty talc merchandise to be “free of hazard.” It attributed “this growing opinion” to the dissemination to medical and scientific communities within the United States and Britain of “favourable data from the various J&J sponsored studies.”

In 1984, FDA cosmetics leader and previous J&J worker Heinz Eiermann reiterated that view. He instructed the New York Times that the company’s investigation a decade previous had brought about the trade to make certain that talc was once asbestos-free. “So in subsequent analyses,” he instructed the paper, “we really could not identify asbestos or only on very rare occasions.”

Two years later, the FDA rejected a citizen request that beauty talc elevate an asbestos caution label, pronouncing that despite the fact that there have been hint contamination, the usage of talc powder all over two years of standard diapering would now not increase the chance of cancer.

In 1980, J&J started providing a cornstarch model of Baby Powder – to enlarge its buyer base to those that choose cornstarch, the corporate says.

The patience of the trade’s view that beauty talc is asbestos-free is why no research were carried out at the occurrence of mesothelioma amongst customers of the goods. It’s additionally in part why laws that offer protection to folks in mines, turbines, factories and faculties from asbestos-laden talc don’t follow to small children and others uncovered to beauty talc – despite the fact that Baby Powder talc has from time to time come from the similar mines as talc bought for business use. J&J says beauty talc is extra totally processed and thus purer than business talc.

Until lately, the American Cancer Society (ACS) approved the trade’s place, pronouncing on its web site: “All talcum products used in homes have been asbestos-free since the 1970s.”

After receiving inquiries from Reuters, the ACS in early December revised its web site to take away the peace of mind that beauty talcs are freed from asbestos. Now, it says, quoting the trade’s requirements, that every one beauty talc merchandise within the United States “should be free from detectable amounts of asbestos.”

The revised ACS internet web page additionally notes that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies talc that comprises asbestos as “carcinogenic to humans.”

Despite the good fortune of J&J’s efforts to advertise the security of its talc, the corporate’s take a look at lab discovered asbestos fibres in samples taken from the Vermont operation in 1984, 1985 and 1986. Bicks mentioned: “The samples that we know of during this time period that contained a fibre or two of asbestos were not cosmetic talc samples.”

Then, in 1992, 3 years after J&J bought its Vermont mines, the brand new proprietor, Cyprus Minerals, mentioned in an inner record on “important environmental issues” in its talc reserves that there was once “past tremolite” within the Hammondsville deposit. Hammondsville was once the main supply of Baby Powder talc from 1966 till its shutdown in 1990.

Bicks rejected the Cyprus record as rumour, pronouncing there is not any unique documentation to substantiate it. Hammondsville mine data, in step with a 1993 J&J memo, “were destroyed by the mine management staff just prior to the J&J divestiture.”

Bicks mentioned the destroyed paperwork didn’t come with talc trying out data.

In 2002 and 2003, Vermont mine operators discovered chrysotile asbestos fibres on a number of events in talc produced for Baby Powder bought in Canada. In each and every case, a unmarried fibre was once recorded – a finding deemed “BDL” – beneath detection restrict. Bicks described the finding as “background asbestos” that didn’t come from any talc supply.

In 2009, the FDA, responding to rising public worry about talc, commissioned checks on 34 samples, including a bottle of J&J Baby Powder and samples of Imerys talc from China. No asbestos was once detected.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb mentioned the company continues to obtain numerous questions on talc cosmetics. “I recognise the concern,” he instructed Reuters. He mentioned the company’s policing of cosmetics normally – fewer than 30 folks regulating a “vast” trade – was once “a place where we think we can be doing more.”

Gottlieb mentioned the FDA deliberate to host a public discussion board in early 2019 to “look at how we would develop standards for evaluating any potential risk.” An company spokeswoman mentioned that would come with inspecting “scientific test methods for assessment of asbestos.”


Before regulation faculty, Herschel Hobson labored at a rubber plant. There, his activity integrated making sure that asbestos in talc the employees have been uncovered to didn’t exceed OSHA limits.

That’s why he zeroed in on Johnson’s Baby Powder after he took on Darlene Coker as a shopper in 1997. The lawsuit Coker and her husband, Roy, filed that year against J&J in Jefferson County District Court in Beaumont, Texas, is the earliest Reuters discovered alleging Baby Powder led to cancer.

Hobson requested J&J for any analysis it had into the health of its mine employees; talc manufacturing data from the mid-1940s during the 1980s; depositions from managers of 3 labs that examined talc for J&J; and any paperwork associated with trying out for fibrous or asbestiform fabrics.

J&J objected. Hobson’s “fishing expedition” would now not flip up any related proof, it asserted in a May 6, 1998, movement. In truth, a number of the 1000’s of paperwork Hobson’s request could have grew to become up was once a letter J&J attorneys had won handiest weeks previous from a Rutgers University geologist confirming that she had discovered asbestos within the corporate’s Baby Powder, recognized in her 1991 printed learn about as tremolite “asbestos” needles.

Hobson agreed to delay his discovery calls for till he were given the pathology record on Coker’s lung tissue. Before it got here in, J&J requested the pass judgement on to disregard the case, arguing that Coker had “no evidence” Baby Powder led to mesothelioma.

Ten days later, the pathology record landed: Coker’s lung tissue contained tens of 1000’s of “long fibres” of 4 various kinds of asbestos. The findings have been “consistent with exposure to talc containing chrysotile and tremolite contamination,” the record concluded.

“The asbestos fibres found raise a new issue of fact,” Hobson instructed the pass judgement on in a request for extra time to document an opposition to J&J’s dismissal movement. The pass judgement on gave him extra time however grew to become down his request to renew discovery.

Without proof from J&J and no hope of ever getting any, Hobson steered Coker to drop the suit.

Hobson remains to be working towards regulation in Nederland, Texas. When Reuters instructed him in regards to the proof that had emerged in fresh litigation, he mentioned: “They knew what the problems were, and they hid it.” J&J’s data would have made a “100% difference” in Coker’s case.

Had the details about asbestos in J&J’s talc pop out previous, he mentioned, “maybe there would have been 20 years less exposure” for other folks.

Bicks, the J&J legal professional, mentioned Coker dropped her case as a result of “the discovery established that J&J talc had nothing to do with Plaintiff’s disease, and that asbestos exposure from a commercial or occupational setting was the likely cause.”

Coker by no means realized why she had mesothelioma. She did beat the percentages, even though. Most sufferers die inside a year of prognosis. Coker hung on lengthy sufficient to look her two grandchildren. She died in 2009, 12 years after her prognosis, at age 63.

Coker’s daughter Crystal Deckard was once Five when her sister, Cady, was once born in 1971. Deckard recollects seeing the white bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder at the converting desk the place her mom diapered her new sister.

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“When Mom was given this death sentence, she was the same age as I am right now,” Deckard mentioned. “I have it in the back of my mind all the time. Could it happen to us? Me? My sister?”

(The tale refiles to specify in paragraph 29 the Imerys SA unit this is co-defendant with J&J in talc litigation.)

Edited by way of Janet Roberts and John Blanton

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