In recent years, individual lawsuits against the hygiene giant Johnson & Johnson have plagued the company, but now the whole state of New Mexico (NM) filed suit against the corporation.
The Attorney General contends that Johnson & Johnson and three other companies sold asbestos-laced talcum powder to unsuspecting New Mexicans, putting their lives in jeopardy.
“Our office will take immediate action any time a corporation misleads a New Mexican consumer or endangers the health and safety of our families,” said Attorney General Hector Balderas.
Balderas accuses the toiletry products conglomerate of purposely targeting minority groups, especially black and Hispanic women and children with false messages about the safety of their products.
“I will hold these companies accountable, “he added.
Asbestos in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder
The defendants named in the NM lawsuit include Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc., Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Corporation, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals North America LLC.
The purported faulty products include “Johnson’s Baby Powder,” “Johnson’s Medicated Powder,” and “Shower-to-Shower Talcum Powder.”
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants, “for decades possessed medical and scientific data that raised concerns regarding the presence of carcinogens including asbestos and talc containing asbestiform fibers.”
NM Joins Thousands of Johnson & Johnson Asbestos Lawsuits
While the 134-year old consumer products company faces almost 17,000 talc-related lawsuits on behalf of individuals, this is the first state in the nation to initiate litigation, according to a New York Times report.
Johnson & Johnson responded by saying they were reviewing the NM lawsuit and will continue to defend the safety of their baby powder — which they say is supported by decades of scientific evidence showing their talc is safe and free of asbestos.
This follows an October recall of 33,000 bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it had discovered trace amounts of chrysotile asbestos in a bottle purchased from an online retailer.
Johnson & Johnson then performed its own tests on the same bottle and reported the talc as asbestos-free.
The verdicts of the numerous cases filed against the company have left the issue inconclusive, as Johnson & Johnson has won some of the cases against them, including two recently. A Los Angeles plaintiff with mesothelioma and another with ovarian cancer in St. Louis both lost their fight against the multi-million dollar company.
Of the cases the corporation lost, they are appealing almost all of them. That includes an almost $4.7 Billion decision in 2018 that ranked as one of the largest product liability judgments ever awarded.
Mining Process Lends Itself to Talc Contamination
Because of the often close proximity in which naturally-mined talc and the organic mineral asbestos rest inside the earth, there can be cross-contamination as the substances are dug out of the ground.
Asbestos fibers present as microscopic threads not visible to the naked eye. For this reason, their presence in talc discovered near asbestos needs constant testing to ensure the purity of the powder.
While talc is benign to users, the invisible asbestos fibers are deadly.
When inhaled, the fibers lodge in lung tissue or other parts of the body and can sometimes, over the course of 20-50 years, lead to the fatal cancer mesothelioma. In less serious cases, asbestos can result in a chronic lung condition called asbestosis, which affects the quality of life of its victims.
In the meantime, Johnson & Johnson has called into question the science supporting the thousands of lawsuits it’s fighting. The mega-corporation is waiting for a federal judge to determine whether the current evidence the plaintiffs are presenting is admissible in court.