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Tuesday, 03 December 2019 07:23

Powder Keg: FDA bowed to industry for decades as alarms were sounded over talc

Written by Reuters
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(Reuters) - At an invitation-only gathering late last year, U.S. regulators and their guests huddled at a hotel near Washington, D.C., to discuss the best way to detect cancer-causing asbestos in talc powders and cosmetics.

The “Asbestos in Talc Symposium,” sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration, was dominated by industry hands: Most of the 21 non-government participants had done work for talc companies, such as testing and serving as expert witnesses and consultants, symposium documents and other records show.

Key sessions were led by witnesses for Johnson & Johnson in lawsuits alleging the company failed to warn customers that its Baby Powder was tainted with cancer-causing asbestos, the records show. Others who sought invitations were turned away, including a physician who had testified against J&J in trials that resulted in billions of dollars in damage awards against the company.

History was repeating itself.

Over the past 50 years, the FDA has relied upon - and often deferred to - industry even as outside experts and consumers repeatedly raised serious health concerns about talc powders and cosmetics, a Reuters investigation found.

Again and again since at least the 1970s, the agency has downplayed the risk of asbestos contamination and declined to issue warnings or impose safety standards, according to documents produced in court proceedings and in response to public records requests.

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