Embattled Johnson & Johnson Recalls Some of its Baby Powder After the FDA Finds Asbestos

Tainted love: Johnson & Johnson recalled 33,000 bottles of baby powder after the Food and Drug Administration found asbestos in one container, The New York Times reports. The company, which once marketed its baby, body, and wellness products as being “for all you love,” has long denied that its talc-based products ever contained cancer-causing asbestos, but it faces more than 15,000 lawsuits from customers who say their products caused them to develop ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, a rare cancer linked to asbestos. The finding of trace levels of asbestos in one lot of the powder could weigh against J&J in court. As FairWarning previously reported, internal documents show that the company has known for decades about the risk of contamination from naturally occurring asbestos in talc deposits mined for use in baby powder and other products. Reuters and The New York Times have also reported on Johnson & Johnson’s attempts to conceal the risks of asbestos contamination from the public. According to The Wall Street Journal, the company faces more than 100,000 lawsuits over product and consumer safety in all, including: 15,500 for talc products; 13,400 for the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal; 24,800 for personal injuries related to pelvic mesh devices; and 2,000 opioid-related lawsuits.

  • Also: A new study found toxic heavy metals in 95 percent of baby foods in the U.S., CNN reports.

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Elder abuse: Three workers at a care facility in North Carolina have been charged with assault for allegedly starting a “dementia fight club” pitting residents against each other, and filming it, Lateshia Beachum reports for The Washington Post. The assisted living facility has been barred from admitting new residents, writes Lee Sanderlin in the Winston-Salem Journal.

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The opioid saga: To avoid going to trial, four drug companies reached a last-minute $260 million settlement with two Ohio counties for their role in the opioid crisis, Sara Randazzo reports for The Wall Street Journal. Nearly every state and many cities and counties have sued drug manufacturers and distributors to recoup the costs of dealing with the opioid crisis.

  • Also: School districts have begun suing makers of e-cigarettes for costs associated with students’ addiction to nicotine, Ryan Delaney reports for NPR.

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Hello, darkness: Utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. (PG&E) expects to impose deliberate power outages in parts of Northern California for the next 10 years while it updates its equipment, Howard Blume writes  in The Los Angeles Times. The company has intentionally shut off power four times already this year for up to four days at a time, affecting hundreds of thousands of customers. It’s a wild, terrible inconvenience for many, but for vulnerable populations, such as those who need power to operate medical devices, the outages can put lives at risk. As Lee Fang reported for The Intercept, the “bankrupt” company over the years spent billions on lobbyists, marketing and public relations, and dividend payments to shareholders instead of much-needed upgrades. The New York Times reports that PG&E has warned that hundreds of thousands could lose power again this week, as dry air and high temperatures have created the perfect conditions for wildfires.

  • Also: Sarah Miller wrote a vivid first-person account of the outage for The Outline, grappling with her surprise and sense of denial about the new normal.—In The New York Times Magazine, Abrahm Lustgarten argues that while forced blackouts are a terrible way to prevent wild fires, they are excellent at opening Californians’ eyes to the climate emergency at hand.

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“Running rampant”: A Boeing pilot voiced concerns about the new system that played a role in two deadly crashes years before they took place, Andrew Tangel and Andy Pasztor report for The Wall Street Journal. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the Democratic chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the messages “show deliberate concealment.” The revelation has thrown the company into greater disarray, increasing its legal exposure and complicating efforts to get its 737 Max jets flying again, The New York Times reports.

  • Also: Families of victims of the Ethiopian Airlines crash are campaigning to prevent the 737 Max from returning to the air before all safety concerns have been addressed, Jim Zarroli reports for NPR.

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Crash ratings: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that it will rework the five-star safety rating system for new cars and trucks, David Shepardson reports for Reuters. As FairWarning previously reported, under the current, outdated system, nearly every new car (98 percent) receives four or five stars, making the ratings of little use to consumers. The new assessment program is expected to be released in 2020.

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“Force multipliers”: A study by Columbia University found that at least 64 percent of “high-fatality mass shootings,” or shootings with six or more deaths, are perpetrated by shooters with large-capacity magazines, Corky Siemaszko reports for NBCNews. “They are force multipliers for evil,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut)  when introducing a bill that would limit all rifle and handgun magazines to 10 rounds.

  • Also: The father of a Sandy Hook elementary school shooting victim won a defamation lawsuit against the editors of a book that claimed his son’s death was a hoax, Susan Svrluga writes in The Washington Post. The shooter, armed with large-capacity magazines, killed 20 children and six adults. The jury awarded Lenny Pozner $450,000.

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Bottleneck: Sharon Lerner writes for The Intercept that Coca-Cola declares its support for environmental causes while throttling bills that have the best chance of reducing plastic pollution, such as bottle bills that require consumers to pay a deposit when they purchase a drink. Specifically, they do this by joining or funding nonprofits like Keep America Beautiful, and then threatening to pull funding if the groups support legislation that the company doesn’t like.

  • Also:  Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports for The Guardian that Google has made “substantial” financial contributions to organizations notorious for climate denial and support for weakening environmental rules. These groups include the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the State Policy Network, the American Conservative Union, American Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Center, and Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action.

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Work hazards: An administrative law judge has upheld willful and serious citations against Tony Watson, doing business as Countryside Tree Service, in Schenectady, New York, in a case stemming from the death of an employee who was pulled into a wood chipper on his first day on the job. Watson had contested citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration accusing him of failing to provide proper safety training. The decision also orders Watson to pay $66,986 in penalties.—OSHA cited two Florida roofing companies–Cruz Enterprises & Construction and Intex Builders–for failing to provide adequate fall protection, and proposed $83,348 in penalties—A Dollar Tree Store in Athens, Georgia, was cited for blocking emergency exits and exposing workers to trip, fall and struck-by hazards from stacked merchandise and cluttered floors–another in a series of alleged safety violations by the nationwide chain. The company faces $125,026 in proposed penalties.

Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.

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