The Ford Pinto exploding gas tank; flammable pajamas; the Dalkon Shield — what do these products have in common?
Each of these were inherently dangerous products and subjects of product liability litigation to hold the manufacturers responsible for injuring and killing consumers. Documents obtained from those manufacturers by plaintiff attorneys proved that the manufacturers had knowledge of the risks but chose to sell the products anyway, prioritizing profits over the well being of their customers.
Partly due to the persistent efforts of product liability plaintiff attorneys in seeking to hold the manufacturers, each of those products was taken off the market.
There is now another such product to add to that list — Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder.
The company announced it was permanently discontinuing sales of its iconic talc-based baby powder in the United States. It’s the latest chapter in long running saga, following discovery of documents that Johnson & Johnson knew decades ago about asbestos contamination in its baby powder yet chose not to warn the public. Read more in a New York Times article.
Lawyers have brought lawsuits against the company on behalf of thousands of people, mostly for cases of ovarian cancer and malignant mesothelioma. Evidence has established that exposure to the asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder is a cause of both of these cancers, and that the corporation was concerned about these risks as long ago as the early 1970s.
At various times, the company has denied its baby powder product contained asbestos, claimed that it didn’t know about the contamination, or that the amount of asbestos in the product couldn’t be proven to cause cancer in humans.
There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos, according to every legitimate medical and scientific organization, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Even small amounts of asbestos exposure are known to cause cases of malignant mesothelioma in humans. The cancer typically manifests several decades after exposure. This means that children whose parents used baby powder on them many years ago may now be at risk of developing mesothelioma or ovarian cancer as adults.
Sadly, while Johnson & Johnson has decided to pull its talc-based baby powder product of the market in the US and Canada, it has not decided to pull it from distribution to other countries. The deterrent effect of lawsuits in this country doesn’t exist in many other countries, where legal systems are not as strong in protecting consumers from dangerous products.