Johnson & Johnson has long maintained that its talcum powder products, including its popular baby powder, were asbestos-free. That assertion has come under severe scrutiny after a lawsuit revealed that J&J itself had concern over the presence of asbestos in its baby powder in the 1970s.
Thousands of people who used baby powder are now suffering from mesothelioma and lung cancer. These victims have sued the giant conglomerate for failing to warn consumers their products were carcinogenic.
Handwritten memo provides strong evidence of putting profits ahead of safety
An internal, handwritten memo shows that Johnson & Johnson tested their baby powder for asbestos in the 1970s. The results showed that the asbestos levels were lower than the standard exposure risk for asbestos miners at the time, so J&J continued selling the product. However, the scientific consensus has long been that no amount of asbestos exposure is safe. Thousands of mesothelioma patients die every year, many of whom had limited asbestos exposure.
The plain truth is that any product that contains asbestos and can be inhaled is unsafe. And according to the memo, J&J knew their talc products were contaminated with asbestos fibers and continued to sell the product without any warning to consumers.
Investor lawsuit follows revelation
On February 8, an investor lawsuit was filed in New Jersey, where a consumer class action is also taking place. J&J stock fell 5 percent when investors heard news of the memo. The lawsuit alleges J&J misled investors by failing to acknowledge they knew their talc products contained asbestos.
Despite recent losses, J&J is still financially stable. According to a recent article in CNBC, J&J had $18.4 billion in cash and marketable securities at the close of last year.