January 10, 2019 — Evidence proves that Johnson & Johnson knew that its talcum powder products were contaminated with small amounts of asbestos as early as 1971 but failed to tell regulators or the public.
An expert testified that Johnson & Johnson knew about the cancer risks of asbestos in baby powder and other talcum powder products as early as the 1970s.
James Webber, an environmental health scientist, took the stand on the third day of a jury trial in Oakland, California.
He testified that Johnson & Johnson knew that its baby powder products contained asbestos and that studies had linked the products to cancer as early as 1971.
The case involves Teresa E. Leavitt, a woman who was diagnosed with incurable mesothelioma in 2017 after years of using baby powder that she says was contaminated with asbestos.
The lawsuit claims that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn consumers about the risk of cancer from asbestos in talcum powder. The company is also accused of failing to replace talcum powder with less-toxic cornstarch.
Lawyers presented an internal memo from 1971 discussing results from a talc study, claiming there were “trace” amounts of asbestos.
Webber said the actual results of the study meant that millions of asbestos fibers might be found per gram of talc. Furthermore, other studies have made similar findings.
Webber added that findings by different laboratories indicate that there was a “long history” of asbestos contamination in talc mines. He also said pictures of some samples tested in the early 1990s reveal that “they had been seeing it and not reporting it.”
The lawsuit is In RE: Leavitt v. Johnson & Johnson — Case No. RG17882401 in the Superior Court of the state of California (Alameda County).
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