Microscopy expert William Longo, preparing to testify as an expert in a trial alleging Johnson & Johnson’s talc-containing products caused cancer, pored through 32 samples of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products, all of which were in their original metal or plastic retail packaging. During his testimony, he told New Jersey jurors that he found a range of concentrations of asbestos in 18 of those samples.
Longo is an expert witness in the case of Stephen Lanzo III, who is suing Johnson & Johnson over claims that his regular use of the company’s talc containing products caused him to develop mesothelioma. Asbestos is classified as “carcinogenic to humans” based on its ability to cause mesothelioma and cancers of the lung, larynx and ovaries, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Johnson & Johnson has repeatedly claimed that the asbestos has been removed from its talc-containing products, which include Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder.
Longo said that the samples of talc he examined ranged from minimum threshold for detecting asbestos minerals, which is around 8,000 fibers per gram of talc, to as much as 14 million fibers per gram of talc. Regarding Johnson & Johnson’s claim that its own testing showed no evidence of asbestos in its talc, Longo said that the company’s testing had been done using a method that would only catch an “extraordinary” amount of asbestos, or around 6.75 million fibers per gram of talc.
The microcopy expert testified that he believed Lanzo had been exposed to “substantial” amounts of asbestos based on his frequent use of Johnson & Johnson’s products through the years. He said his opinion was further backed by the talc and tremolite asbestos fibers that were found in Lanzo’s lymph tissues.
Johnson & Johnson is facing thousands of similar lawsuits alleging its talc-containing products, when used as recommended on the genitals for feminine hygiene, caused women to develop ovarian cancer. The company has been hit with eight- and nine-figure verdicts in some of those cases.