While Johnson & Johnson was issuing denial after denial over the presence of mesothelioma-causing asbestos in its talc-based products, it was also attending meetings with federal regulators to discuss the presence of asbestos in its talc-based products. As recently as the latter months of 2018, officials from the FDA met at a D.C.-area hotel with talc industry executives for the purpose of figuring out how much asbestos might be present in talc-based powders. Some of the most important sessions of the meeting were led by people who had served as witnesses testifying on behalf of Johnson & Johnson in the growing number of lawsuits claiming that not only did J&J talc powder contain asbestos, but that the asbestos had caused them to develop the lethal form of cancer.
The name of this conference was quite self-explanatory. It was the “Asbestos in Talc Symposium.”
News of the Asbestos in Talc Symposium is just the first shot fired in a newly released investigative report published by Reuters. The report details the systematic failure of the Food and Drug Administration to enforce regulations that would have kept the American people safe from a known carcinogen. And, in many cases, it shows the agency doing almost everything it could to pave the way for talc-industry executives to put even more asbestos-laden talc into American homes. In fact, according to the report, FDA regulators have been kowtowing to the talc industry for the past five decades.
The possibility that products based on talc powder could be introducing asbestos into American homes was first noticed by the FDA in 1971 when unnamed samples of talc powder tested positive for the fibers. Within two years, subsequent tests showed asbestos in the talc used in J&J’s Shower to Shower feminine hygiene product. Regulators were well aware that the same powder in Shower to Shower was used in Johnson’s Baby Powder when they decided not to publicize news of their discovery.
The Reuters investigation is a long read but it makes one thing perfectly clear: Not only did Johnson & Johnson know that its talc products contained asbestos, but the FDA knew about it, too. And neither of them did anything to protect American families.