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If you regularly use Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) talc baby powder products, as many of us do, you may be increasing your risk of developing cancer. New research has revealed that since as early as 1971, J&J executives, managers, doctors, and lawyers have been aware of trace amounts of harmful asbestos being detected in their baby powder. Beyond simple awareness, J&J may have actively covered up product testing results that indicated the presence of asbestos.

Asbestos are naturally occurring silicate minerals that have multiple serious side effects if inhaled by humans. These side effects are due primarily to the human body’s inability to break down asbestos fibers, which can result in them become lodged in the lungs or other body tissues if inhaled. Some of the major diseases that can result from asbestos exposure include the chronic lung condition asbestosis, lung cancer, ovarian cancers, and a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma.

The news of this cover-up, which came in a recently released Reuters report, resulted in J&J’s 11.9 percent stock drop on Dec. 14, which was the worst stock day in company history since 2002. In response to this, J&J officials have stated that the price drop was an overreaction and that the report is an “absurd conspiracy theory” that is false and one-sided. They also insist that their baby powder is safe for consumers and does not and never has contained asbestos.

While the Reuters examination was only just released, similar accusations have been made in the past. One woman, 52-year-old Darlene Cooker, developed mesothelioma after using J&J’s baby powder regularly. Mesothelioma is an extremely rare form of cancer that primarily afflicts individuals who inhale asbestos. After her diagnosis, Cooker sued J&J in 1999, but was ultimately forced to drop the lawsuit due to a lack of provable evidence for her allegations. In a case with a more positive outcome, J&J was forced to award $4.69 billion in damages to 22 Missouri plaintiffs who filed a claim saying that asbestos-tainted products caused them ovarian cancer.

J&J’s glaring lack of concern for the safety of their products’ consumers is unacceptable. Luckily, this Reuters’ report may be exactly what plaintiffs — including today’s nearly 12,000 open cases — have been waiting for. As this new evidence unfolds, it is hopeful that cases successfully result in J&J being held legally liable for the harm that they have caused.

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