Johnson & Johnson has filed suit against four doctors who have published research on and testified to the link between asbestos-containing talc and cancers. Alleging the research was based on “junk science,” J&J are suing to force researchers to “retract and/or issue a correction” on their published research.
These most recent suits come after J&J attempted to file for bankruptcy as a settlement strategy for the thousands of lawsuits coming their way. That attempt and their first try at suing a doctor was rejected by the court. Now lawsuits have been filed against an additional three doctors, who J&J alleges intentionally created a “false narrative” surrounding the safety of talc and their products. They also claim that the researchers were financially motivated, citing the “small fortune” they made from testifying in court.
Trying to prove these researchers intended to harm J&J itself might not be possible, but the move may also be an attempt to discourage further research publication. Adam Zimmerman, a professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, told Reuters that the message they’re sending is pretty clear. “When a litigant starts suing opposing experts, that’s very aggressive,” Zimmerman said. “It sends a message that the gloves are off.”
Is Talc Safe or Not?
According to the American Cancer Society, the problem with talcum powder isn’t the talc itself, but the fact that asbestos is often found in talc when it’s mined. Asbestos, on the other hand, we know for sure is a carcinogen. The World Health Organization says there is no amount of asbestos that is safe to be exposed to.
Since the 60s, we’ve known that asbestos is dangerous and doesn’t belong in cosmetics and personal care products. Reporting from Reuters in 2018 found internal documents that confirmed that J&J knew their products contained levels of asbestos that were “rather high” back in the 70s, but hid this information from the public.
Currently, J&J is subject to nearly 40,000 lawsuits alleging that its talc-based products were contaminated by asbestos and caused cancers, which it is attempting to resolve through an $8.9 billion settlement.
For their part, J&J has already moved to discontinue its talc-containing products globally in what it called a “commercial decision” that it claims had nothing to do with the safety of talc. “Corn starch-based Johnson’s Baby Powder is already sold in countries around the world,” J&J said in a public statement. “Our position on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unchanged.”