Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced a preliminary agreement with over 40 US states under which it will pay as much as $700 million. This concerns allegations about baby powder and other talc-based products. Over the years, the company had to deal with a wave of thousands of lawsuits from women who claimed that the asbestos contained in the powder caused their cancer.
According to the BBC, this is only part of a larger settlement. Erik Haas, who handles litigation at Johnson & Johnson, said the company continues to work toward a broader settlement.
Last year, Johnson & Johnson said it was willing to pay nearly $9 billion in settlements to end tens of thousands of lawsuits.
The next stage of the legal fight
“The company continues to pursue several avenues to achieve a comprehensive and final resolution of the talc dispute. This process includes an in-principle agreement that the company has reached with 43 state attorneys general,” Erik Haas said in a statement.
A total of 50,000 lawsuits were filed against the company. Despite having to pay compensation to women who claimed that using Johnson & Johnson powder caused them to develop cancer, the company still maintains that the product did not contain asbestos and was completely safe.
It is worth recalling that in only one of the trials completed so far, 22 women received compensation of over USD 2 billion. In total, the company was to spend as much as $10 billion on claims from former clients. However, a significant number of cases were won by the company.
Asbestos in baby powder
Where does asbestos in talc come from? Talc is a mineral that occurs naturally in nature. The problem is that its deposits are usually adjacent to asbestos, whose thin fibers, only 0.01 microns thick, can easily contaminate talc. When such fiber gets into the lungs, for example, it may cause cancer. Therefore, even a small asbestos content in cosmetic products is unacceptable.
As Reuters found in 2018, Johnson & Johnson executives have known for decades that traces of carcinogenic asbestos were found in its baby powder. Internal documents, trial testimony and other evidence showed that from 1971 through the early 2000s, both Johnson & Johnson talcum powder and finished powders contained asbestos.
In 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detected asbestos in as many as nine of 43 bottles of powder tested and ordered it to be withdrawn from sale.
End of sales of talcum powder
In August 2022, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would no longer sell talc-based baby powder globally. Previously, this product was completely withdrawn from the United States and Canada. Currently, the company continues to sell a version of the product containing cornstarch.
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