Johnson & Johnson Injected Prisoners With Asbestos, Talcum Powder Lawsuit Documents Reveal

The company funded unethical experiments on African American prisoners in an effort to investigate possible links between asbestos and talcum powder as far back as 1971.

From 1951 to 1974, Dr. Albert Kligman, a famed dermatologist, conducted horrendous experiments on African American prisoners. Now, decades later, court documents reveal Johnson & Johnson played a key role in some of the more heinous activities, including injecting black men with asbestos and talcum powder to see what it would do to them.

Johnson & Johnson faces about 38,000 Baby Powder lawsuits and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits brought by former users diagnosed with ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and other injuries, which they allege were caused by exposure to talc and asbestos particles in the popular talcum powder products, which were sold for decades without warnings about health risks Johnson & Johnson knew they would face.

According to a report published by Bloomberg Law on March 7, court documents uncovered in the litigation revealed an even darker chapter in the company’s history, where it helped fund Kligman’s experiments. Not only do the new revelations link the company to ruthless and unethical scientific experimentation, but they also could imply that Johnson & Johnson suspected, or feared, a link between talcum powder and asbestos decades ago.

The experiments in general have been known about for decades. Kligman experimented on black inmates at Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia, committing medical atrocities that gained him accolades and notoriety, due to resulting advances in dermatology and anti-acne medications. Kligman, who died in 2010, was unapologetic about injecting unwitting black men with potentially harmful substances without their informed consent, saying everything he did was legal at the time.

Bloomberg’s story indicates that court records resulting from talcum powder lawsuits revealed that some of these experiments were funded by Johnson & Johnson during the 1970s, specifically to see how the side effects of talcum powder exposure compared to asbestos exposure. The experiments were also funded at various times by the U.S. government and Dow Chemical.

The specific experiments linked to Johnson & Johnson took place in 1971, involving 10 prisoners who were injected with tremolite and chrysolite asbestos, as well as talc. By that point, the risks of asbestos and its link to mesothelioma and various forms of cancer had been known for some time.

Johnson & Johnson officials say they “regret” the company’s involvement in the experiments at the time, and say Kligman’s actions do not reflect the values of the company today. However, the experiments could be more evidence that Johnson & Johnson knew there were problems with its talc products and their relationship with asbestos more than 50 years ago.

What role the documents may play in talcum powder litigation is unclear. Currently, the litigation is on pause, after a federal judge allowed the company to move forward with a controversial bankruptcy move, where Johnson & Johnson is attempting to split off the liability it faces for failing to warn about the talcum powder risks into a new company, LTL Management, which was created specifically for the purpose of declaring bankruptcy, as part of a move designed to limit the amount of money Johnson & Johnson may now have to pay to plaintiffs who developed ovarian cancer or asbestos-related injuries.

The Johnson & Johnson talcum powder bankruptcy plan has been widely criticized by plaintiffs lawyers, as well as bankruptcy experts, as an abuse of the legal process and effort to delay a series of trials that were expected to go before juries this year.

Plaintiffs say Johnson & Johnson, which has billions in cash reserves, has no financial distress that would merit a bankruptcy filing. However, since the bankruptcy is being allowed to move forward, settlements for talcum powder cancer and asbestos lawsuits may be artificially capped.

Defending against the talcum powder litigation has already cost Johnson & Johnson $1 billion, on top of Baby Powder settlements and verdicts that have amounted to another $3.5 billion, according to the bankruptcy filing.

Most of the U.S. talc litigation is currently pending in the federal court system, where the cases are centralized before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in the District of New Jersey, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation. Prior to the bankruptcy filing, the Court was planning to hold a series of talcum powder “bellwether” trials beginning in April 2022, which have now been delayed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

1 Comments

  • TracyMarch 15, 2022 at 3:03 pm

    What evil has for our bad...God turns into good. J&J negligent to tell the truth in 1971 has caught up with them 50 years later. I too used baby powder and shower to shower at age 12. I was very athletic and started my menses. I'm 61 years old and 5 years ago I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer Epithelial High Grade Serous, Stage III. I underwent 2 major surgeries, 18 weeks of Chemo and over 5 ye[Show More]What evil has for our bad...God turns into good. J&J negligent to tell the truth in 1971 has caught up with them 50 years later. I too used baby powder and shower to shower at age 12. I was very athletic and started my menses. I'm 61 years old and 5 years ago I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer Epithelial High Grade Serous, Stage III. I underwent 2 major surgeries, 18 weeks of Chemo and over 5 years of blood work markers and Oncology visits. I asked my doctor how long I have to see him. I was devastated with his answer😪. He said for 20 years. I have been in remission for 5 years trying to cope with what will I do when it returns. This cancer is a chronic disease because it comes and go in and out of remission until we succumb to the disease. My finances are gone for being off work for 9 months, filed for bankruptcy 2 years ago, medical bills and now having to learn that the J&J company has been granted a Stay for bankruptcy. J&J greed to put profits ($400 billion) over the life of 36,000 women affected with OVC "Will Not" be held responsible for giving grandmothers,mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and female friends asbestos laced talcum powder. We the women who are suffering want real justice. As I said in the beginning, what evil meant for bad, God will turn it into good. NOW THIS IS WALKING IN FAITH!!

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