A new report from Reuters says that executives at Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that their baby powder, also known as talcum or talc powder, contained small amounts of asbestos. According to Reuters, the report is the result of an examination of official company documents which reveal that executives and scientists were concerned that the company's talc powder was testing positive for asbestos. Reuters claims that despite multiple admissions in company memos and internal reports, Johnson & Johnson never shared these test results with the public -- or with federal regulators. The documents Reuters used span decades: the oldest is from 1971, while the most recent is from the early 2000s.
As The American Cancer Society notes, baby powder is made from talc, a naturally occurring mineral that sometimes contains asbestos, a well-known carcinogen. Over 11,500 plaintiffs have filed suits claiming that Johnson & Johnson's baby powder gave them cancers. A lot of Reuters' research on this issue comes from the evidence that the company was forced to release as a result of these lawsuits. Reuters also examined court testimony and depositions.
The report has had a negative effect on Johnson & Johnson's stock. CNBC reports that it caused the company's shares to plummet approximately 11 percent on Friday. According to CNBC, this could be the cosmetic giant's biggest stock drop since 2002, a development that likely left shareholders aghast. The stock is normally a steady performer on the market.