Dr. James Webber, environmental consultant and founder of New York asbestos laboratory the Wadsworth Center, testified that the testing data he reviewed showed that both Johnson & Johnson’s finished talcum powder products and its source of talc contained asbestos, in a trial alleging long-term use of the consumer health care giant’s talc-containing products caused a man to develop mesothelioma.
But in cross examination this week, Johnson & Johnson attorneys showed Webber a series of testing reports prepared by another group, including nearly a dozen from the 1970s, that contended that Johnson & Johnson’s talc did not contain asbestos. Did Webber review this data, the attorneys asked. Webber said he could not recall. But, he added, he had seen studies by the same group that did find asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder.
Webber testified in the trial of Stephen Lanzo III, who along with his wife Kendra is suing Johnson & Johnson alleging he developed the deadly type of lung cancer after years of using Johnson’s Baby Powder, beginning in infancy when his mother applied the powder to him. He is also suing Imerys Talc America Inc., and Cyprus Amax Minerals Co., an Imerys predecessor. Lanzo’s case is the second in the country to go to trial. The first fell in favor of the consumer product manufacturer.
Lanzi contends that Johnson & Johnson and Cyprus knew as far back as the 1970s that talc contained asbestos. Asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma, a rare and deadly tumor of the tissue that lines the lungs, stomach, heart and other organs.
Johnson & Johnson is also facing lawsuits alleging its talcum powder products, when used on the genitals for personal hygiene, caused women to develop ovarian cancer. In 2016, Johnson & Johnson lost three of these trials resulting in $55 million, $70 million and $72 million verdicts. In 2017, the company was hit with a $110 million and a $417 million verdict.