J&J shares fall on reports of damaging evidence in talc-asbestos litigation

by Charles Miller

Shares of Johnson & Johnson stock fell recently on reports that talcum powder lawsuits filed against the company could reveal damaging information about the health risks associated with these products. Johnson & Johnson is currently facing thousands of lawsuits filed across the company over the alleged link between the use of talcum powder and an increased cancer risk.

According to the reports, documents uncovered in the lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson revealed that the company had concerns about the risk that babies could be exposed to asbestos particles found in its talcum powder products. Exposure to asbestos is linked to an increased risk of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects miners and other individuals who worked with asbestos-containing products. Because talc and asbestos are often found close together when they are mined, experts had raised concerns that Johnson & Johnson’s talc products could be contaminated with asbestos.

So far, the presence of asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder and other talc products sold by Johnson & Johnson has not been definitively established. However, a handwritten memo from the 1970s detailing the company’s concerns suggests that executives may have known about the possible link between talcum powder and asbestos exposure for decades.

Asbestos Evidence Uncovered in Talc and Mesothelioma Lawsuits Against J&J

Over the last two years, thousands of lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson have been filed on behalf of women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer or uterine cancer after using the company’s talcum powder brands for feminine hygiene. More recently, Johnson & Johnson has faced lawsuits alleging that asbestos particles in the company’s talc products could increase consumers’ risk of developing mesothelioma cancer. Talcum powder lawsuits involving patients with mesothelioma have also been filed against other talc makers, including Colgate-Palmolive, the company which used to manufacture the Cashmere Bouquet line of talcum powder products.

Other documents uncovered during these lawsuits indicated that Johnson & Johnson may have known about the potential asbestos problem with its talcum powder brands for decades. In some documents, the company tried to persuade health regulators that its talcum powder products would not be harmful if they contained up to 1% asbestos. In other documents, the company successfully lobbied for a testing program still in use today that is too crude to detect small amounts of asbestos in talc.

Many of these documents date back to the early 1970s, when researchers at New York University and Mount Sinai Hospital detected the presence of asbestos in some talcum powder products and cosmetics containing talc. Although Johnson & Johnson sought to reassure consumers that its talc products were safe, the company’s internal memos admitted that “sub-trace quantities [that] might be classified as asbestos fiber” had been detected in Johnson’s Baby Powder.

Although Johnson & Johnson argued that talc products with 1% asbestos would be safe for babies, health experts have disputed these assertions. Most health experts contend that a “safe” level of asbestos exposure has not been determined. A 2014 report by a non-profit science group stated that exposure to concentrations of asbestos “well below 1%” could still pose a risk of mesothelioma cancer or other asbestos diseases.

Eventually, an industry-wide testing method was established in 1976 which was able to detect asbestos amounts of up to 0.5%. Although this was an improvement over the 1% standard proposed by Johnson & Johnson, many experts say that this testing method does not ensure that hazardous levels of asbestos in talc products will be uncovered during the testing. As an executive from the talc-mining company Imerys Talc America stated in a 2001 email to the FDA, “I think we all recognize [the 0.5% tests] are simply not sensitive enough to provide complete assurance that the talc is free of detectable asbestos.”

Talcum Powder Lawsuits Filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson

If you or a loved one used talcum powder products sold by Johnson & Johnson or other companies and were diagnosed with cancer, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. The first step in taking legal action is to speak with an experienced attorney to help determine if you are eligible to file a claim.

For more information  and to find out if you qualify to take legal action, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few brief questions to get started.


Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Results of other cases do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case.