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US Agencies Investigate Johnson & Johnson Over Carcinogenic Asbestos In Baby Powder

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Johnson & Johnson has disclosed that it received subpoenas from different federal agencies in relation to the litigation of asbestos injury cases.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission issued subpoenas pressuring J&J to release information on the liability claims.

Senator Patty Murray of the Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor and Pensions also requested J&J to produce such documents. The company said they intend to cooperate on the investigation.

Intense Year

J&J faced a series of legal battles in 2018 alleging that the company has violated securities laws. The plaintiffs claimed that it failed to inform the public and regulators about the asbestos contamination.

In October 2018, J&J and current directors faced a complaint on the violation of fiduciary duties. J&J said it has suffered damages resulting from those claims.

"The number of pending product liability lawsuits continues to increase, and the Company continues to receive information with respect to potential costs and the anticipated number of cases," J&J said on its filing.

In July 2018, J&J paid up $4.7 billion of damages to 22 women claiming that its baby powder had caused them ovarian cancer. J&J maintained that the baby powder products were pure and free from asbestos.

Hiding In Plain Sight

One of the earliest cases of talc-asbestos injury claim against J&J was executed about 20 years ago. The plaintiff had to drop the case for not having the burden of proof.

J&J evaded persistent requests for third-party laboratory testing. Internal laboratory tests did not find traces of asbestos from tiny talc samples.

An in-depth analysis of internal documents showed that J&J knew that its baby powder contains a deadly carcinogen.

"J&J didn't tell the FDA that at least three tests by three different labs from 1972 to 1975 had found asbestos in its talc - in one case at levels reported as "rather high," Reuters reported.

Media reports on the J&J talc issue influenced the regulators' plan of limiting asbestos content on cosmetic talc products. It also inspired experts to conduct additional scientific research on its health effects.

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