Industry giant Johnson and Johnson has hit back strongly after Reuters made the explosive claim that J&J knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder.
Reuters examined thousands of internal company documents and came to the conclusion that J&J developed a conscious strategy in the 1970s to withhold the fact its raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.
The report claims company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers were all concerned about the problem, but failed to disclose it to regulators or the public.
Reuters also accuses J&J of attempting to influence U.S. regulators’ plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc.
The report caused shares in J&J to plunge 10 percent – a loss of approximately $40 billion USD from the company’s market capitalisation.
Since then, J&J has come out and vehemently denied the results of the investigation, insisting that its talcum powder is safe and does not contain asbestos.
The company has taken out full-page newspaper ads defending itself, and has sent its chief executive out on the media circuit to contain the damage.
— Johnson & Johnson (@JNJCares) December 17, 2018
In a statement, the company described the report as “one-sided, false and inflammatory”. It also accused Reuters of printing “inaccurate statements” and “withholding crucial information that otherwise undermines its thesis”.
“Studies of more than 100,000 men and woman show that talc does not cause cancer or asbestos-related disease.”
“Thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove our baby powder has never contained asbestos.”
Chief Executive Alex Gorsky also appeared on CNBC to to say the company “unequivocally” believed that their talc, and baby powder, did not contain asbestos.
“That’s demonstrated in thousands of studies, studies not only conducted by Johnson and Johnson, but studies conducted by independent authorities, well-respected authorities, where we work closely with regulators who are overlooking the methodology.”
Earlier this year, J&J was ordered to pay out $6.32 billion ($US4.7 billion) in damages to 22 women and their families, after a jury in Missouri found the company responsible for their ovarian cancer (see related article).