On Oct. 18, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) recalled 33,000 bottles of its 22-ounce Baby Powder after a U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) test found trace amounts of asbestos in a sample of the powder. The contaminated sample came from lot #22318RB, and the recall impacts all bottles in the lot.
Asbestos is a group of six naturally-occurring minerals that can be found in the same mines as talcum, which is the ingredient used in baby powder to absorb moisture and prevent diaper rash. This makes it easy for small amounts of asbestos to contaminate talc products like baby powder. Though there aren’t usually immediate health impacts, asbestos exposure has been linked to long-term, progressive and deadly diseases including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, meaning it is critical that J&J ensures that its products are not contaminated before putting them on the market.
The significance of this recall is that it marks the first time the FDA has announced that asbestos was found in baby powder in government-funded testing; however, previous reports of independent scientists and J&J researchers detecting asbestos in baby powder go back decades. In fact, J&J has a history of concealing the detection of asbestos in its talc baby powder since as early as the 1970s.
On Oct. 30, J&J announced that 15 additional tests of the contaminated sample found no asbestos. Now, it has emerged that Johnson & Johnson rushed labs for test results to quickly announce that the sample was asbestos-free. RJ Lee Group, a Pennsylvania-based lab, changed its normal testing practices to get results to J&J quickly. One of RJ Lee’s tests detected asbestos, but the results were determined to be unreliable due to potential contamination of the testing room by an air conditioner. Another lab that conducted testing, Georgia-based Bureau Veritas North America, found no asbestos in its preliminary testing but had not yet completed final testing before J&J publicly announced that follow-up tests were negative for asbestos.
Today, J&J is facing over 16,000 lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who claim their cancer was caused by asbestos in its powders. Juries have awarded plaintiffs over $5 billion in the last two years, which is a promising sign that the company will be liable for the devastating health impacts caused by its disregard for public safety.
If you or a loved one has developed cancer after potentially being exposed to asbestos, please call the experienced personal injury attorneys at Paulson & Nace, PLLC in Washington, D.C. today at (202) 930-0292 or through our online contact form to discuss your legal options.
Both an Emory School of Law graduate and MBA graduate of Goizueta Business School at Emory, Chris Nace focuses his practice on areas of medical malpractice, drug and product liability, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination and other negligence and personal injury matters.