Johnson & Johnson hammered by report it knew of asbestos in baby powder

In this photo illustration, a container of Johnson's baby powder made by Johnson and Johnson sits on a table on July 13, 2018 in San Francisco, California. A Missouri jury has ordered pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson to pay $4.69 billion in damages to 22 women who claim that they got ovarian cancer from Johnson's baby powder. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Johnson & Johnson on Friday forcefully denied a media report that it knew for decades about the existence of trace amounts of asbestos in its baby powder.

The report by the Reuters news service sent the company’s shares into a tailspin, suffering their worst one-day sell-off in 16 years.

Reuters cited documents released as part of a lawsuit by plaintiffs claiming that the product can be linked to ovarian cancer. The New Brunswick, New Jersey company has battled in court against such claims and on Friday called the Reuters report “one-sided, false and inflammatory.”

Johnson & Johnson’s stock fell $14.84, or 10 percent, to close Friday at $133, its most severe single-day decline since 2002.

In the report, Reuters noted documents show consulting labs as early as 1957 and 1958 found asbestos in J&J talc. Further reports by the company and outside labs showed similar findings through the early 2000s, according to the Reuters story.

In its statement Friday, Johnson & Johnson said “thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove our baby powder has never contained asbestos.”

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