You’d recognize that distinctive fragrance anywhere. It’s the smell of innocence. Johnson & Johnson has touted its signature baby powder as gentle enough for a baby’s bottom for more than a century. And though its talcum powder represents only a fraction of the pharmaceutical and cosmetic giant’s modern business, it’s been a cornerstone of the company’s reputation.
That reputation — and Johnson & Johnson’s stock price — has been threatened by thousands of lawsuits claiming that the talc the company uses is contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos. Johnson & Johnson denies the presence of carcinogens in its talc, saying the plaintiffs’ tests are flawed and their results inaccurate.