The news agency said it showed the company, established in 1886, know of the positive tests, and that senior executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers anxious about how to address the problem, while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public. The company promised to appeal that decision, saying in a public statement that their product is safe, blaming the court ruling on juror confusion, "junk" science, unfair court rules and overzealous lawyers looking for a fresh pool of asbestos plaintiffs.
Company documents, along with deposition and trial testimony, show that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, tests showed small amounts of asbestos could sometimes be found in the company's raw talc and finished powders, Reuters reported.
Reuters says in an internal memo from 1976, one of the company's talc overseers also wrote that if stricter methods for testing talc became mandatory, the company would be "hard pressed in supporting purity claims".
In July 2018, a St. Louis jury awarded almost $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in J&J talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer.
According to Reuters, the company also tried, unsuccessfully, to block regulations that lower the maximum level of asbestos allowed in talc-based cosmetics.
The documents also depict successful efforts to influence US regulators' plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc.
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".
The report states that while most internal J&J tests did not find asbestos, the company has always faced limitations that allow trace contaminants to go undetected.
"We believe it is highly unlikely the company's exposure to this talc issue will even come close to the $40 billion in lost market cap today", J.P. Morgan analysts said.
In July, a St. Louis jury awarded $US4.69 billion to 22 women who said its talcum baby powder gave them ovarian cancer.
Meadows won five of the six cases - which are being appealed by Johnson & Johnson - including a $417 million award in Los Angeles and a $110 million award in St. Louis past year. Others have failed to reach verdicts, resulting in mistrials.
'This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer.