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J&J’s Controversial Prison Testing Resurfaces in Baby Powder Lawsuits

The company funded experiments on mostly Black men comparing the effects of talc and asbestos on their skin

Johnson & Johnson headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Johnson & Johnson headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Photographer: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg
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More than 50 years ago, nearly a dozen men incarcerated outside of Philadelphia enrolled in an experiment funded by Johnson & Johnson, according to unsealed documents. Now, those studies have come back to haunt the world’s largest maker of health-care products.

In one study, inmates were paid to be injected with potentially cancer-causing asbestos so the company could compare its effect on their skin versus that of talc, a key component in its iconic baby powder.