Johnson & Johnson pushes back on asbestos report: 'Our talc is safe'

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) on Monday launched a national ad campaign defending itself following a news report that said the company knew for decades its talc baby powder contained traces of asbestos.

The company took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to argue that the findings cited in a recent Reuters investigative piece are not backed by science.

“Our talc is safe,” the company said in the ad. “If we had any reasons to believe our talc was unsafe it would be off our shelves.”

J&J is facing a wave of lawsuits brought by thousands of plaintiffs who allege that talc in the company’s baby powder products contained asbestos and caused mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and other diseases.

Reuters examined documents, trial depositions and trial testimony that reportedly show that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, J&J executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers knew that the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.

The company failed to disclose those findings to federal regulators or the public, Reuters reported.

In a lengthy response posted on its website, the company said Reuters “misled its readers by printing inaccurate statements, withholding crucial information that otherwise undermines its thesis.”

The company asserted that Reuters ignored a host of scientific evidence showing talc does not cause cancer and noted that there has been no asbestos found in baby powder products that have been on the market for the past 15 years.

The company’s stock dropped significantly on Friday, but analysts were surprised by the reaction and seemed to think it was an overcorrection.

Shares were down about 3 percent on Monday.