KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 28 — A United States jury ordered Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to pay US$9 million to a woman who blamed asbestos-tainted talc from the pharmaceutical giant’s iconic baby powder for her cancer.
Bloomberg reported that a Florida jury on Thursday concluded that asbestos in J&J baby powder used by Blanca Mure-Cabrera, 82, contributed to the development of her mesothelioma, a type of cancer.
Mesothelioma develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs. It is caused by asbestos, a group of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals that can cause cancer and diseases when exposed, and which is banned in several countries but not in the US.
J&J said it will appeal the liability finding and damage award, claiming that the verdict was “at odds with the decades of evidence showing the company acted responsibly” besides being guided by “sound science”.
This is the second time this year J&J was ordered by American courts to cough up money over claims the company knew some of its talc-based products were laced with asbestos and allegedly hid it from consumers.
Bloomberg’s story said that an earlier jury in J&J’s hometown of New Brunswick in New Jersey this month also ordered the company to pay US$750 million in punitive damages. This was later reduced to US$186.5 million.
J&J reportedly faces almost 18,000 lawsuits over its 135-year-old baby powder, a staple of baby care rituals and adult skin care and makeup routines worldwide, and a core brand for the company.
The majority of these cases allege that woman who used the baby powder got ovarian cancer, while some also alleged links to mesothelioma.
According to Bloomberg, plaintiffs’ lawyers claim internal J&J documents show executives knew since the late 1960s that talc mined in places such as Vermont and Italy contained trace amounts of asbestos, but failed to alert consumers or regulators.
J&J’s position, however, has always been that there has never been any asbestos in its baby powder and that it marketed the product properly, as it steadfastly fights such claims at trial.
Asbestos is often found in mined talc, but the company says it is removed when processed. J&J says its frangranted baby powder only has “cosmetic talc”, which is commonly used in face, body, and baby powders, as well as colour cosmetics.