Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $4.7bn (£3.6bn) in damages to 22 women who alleged that its talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
A jury in the US state of Missouri initially awarded $550m in compensation and added $4.1bn in punitive damages.
The verdict comes as the pharmaceutical giant battles some 9,000 legal cases involving its signature baby powder. Read more on BBC news.
Talc and asbestos often occur together in the earth, and mined talc can be contaminated with the carcinogen.
The World Health Organization and other authorities recognise no safe level of exposure to asbestos. While most people exposed never develop cancer, for some, even small amounts of asbestos are enough to trigger the disease years later. Just how small hasn’t been established. Many plaintiffs allege that the amounts they inhaled when they dusted themselves with tainted talcum powder were enough.
A Reuters examination of many of those documents, as well as deposition and trial testimony, shows that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.
The documents also depict successful efforts to influence U.S. regulators’ plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc.