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Baby Powder From Decades Ago Caused Cancer, California Jury Finds

16 March 2019

J&J denies that its talc powder contains asbestos or is responsible for health problems.

In a statement, the company said it was disappointed in the verdict, and planned to appeal "because Johnson's Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer".

Just a year ago, a jury decided that Johnson & Johnson had to pay more than $4 billion in damages to a group of women who claimed that asbestos in its products caused their ovarian cancers.

The California Superior Court in Oakland agreed that the company's baby powder was a "substantial contributing factor" to her mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer caused by the inhalation of asbestos.

Mother-of-two Teresa "Terry" Leavitt was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017, and her doctors say she is not expected to live past 2020.

The company also noted that multiple cases have been decided in favor of J&J, or been declared mistrials.

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A California jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $29 million to a woman with mesothelioma who claimed that asbestos in the conglomerate's talcum powder products caused her cancer. We respect the legal process and reiterate that jury verdicts are not medical, scientific or regulatory conclusions about a product. A company executive in the 1970s warned that J&J's talc mines might not be free of asbestos.

Talc and asbestos are often mined together from metamorphic rocks, particularly in North Carolina, Alabama, Vermont and northern Italy. He said the specific type of asbestos wasn't industrial grade, which would have indicated she was exposed to it on the job.

Leavitt's is the first case to go to trial since a December Reuters report based on internal documents confirmed Johnson & Johnson was aware the talc in its products sometimes contained asbestos from the 1970s up until the early 2000s, but failed to inform consumers or regulators of that fact.

Leavitt's trial originally included Johnson & Johnson talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, a unit of Imerys SE, as a co-defendant. Johnson & Johnson has repeatedly pointed to studies that have not shown such a link.

Almost 14,000 cases involving people who believe that J&J's talc powder caused their cancer are making their way through the USA legal system. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they travel to the ends of small air passages and reach the membranes of the thorax and lunges. They said their baby powder "is safe and asbestos-free".

Baby Powder From Decades Ago Caused Cancer, California Jury Finds