The $100m reason to throw your talcum powder in the bin

Do you have to be a sociopath to be the CEO of a major company these days?

I’m starting to wonder if that’s the case, because corporate hot shots seem to increasingly lack any empathy or compassion.

When you hear story after story after story of big companies doing unconscionable things, all in pursuit of the all mighty dollar, you’ve got to ask how these people sleep at night?


Just consider the head honchos at Johnson & Johnson.

There, the men and women in suits have known for decades that their products, including talcum powder and shampoo manufactured for use with babies, contained highly questionable ingredients.

They bowed to public pressure a few years ago and agreed to remove formaldehyde – a key ingredient of glue and industrial disinfectant – from their ‘No More Tears’ baby shampoo.

And now they’ve been found guilty of failing to warn consumers of the cancer risk of their talcum powder.

They’ve been ordered to pay US$72 million (AU$100 million) to the family of Jacqueline Fox, who used two of their talc-based products every day for 30 years. She died of ovarian cancer, which has been linked to those products.

My mum uses their talcum powder every day.

In the verdict announced last week, after a three-week trial, jurors said the pharmaceutical powerhouse were too focused on their profits and not focused enough on their customers’ welfare, when they failed to warn users of the potential cancer risk.

Concerns were raised about the dangers of talc by the American Cancer Society in 1999, who advised women at the time to use cornstarch-based products in the genital area instead.

One of the lawyers for Fox’s family argued that Johnson & Johnson “knew as far back as the 1980s of the risk” and still failed to warn consumers.

I think it’s pertinent here to point out that one of the key definitions of a sociopath is that they are incapable of feeling shame, guilt or remorse; their brains actually lack the circuitry required to process such emotions.

So I ask again: do you have to be a sociopath to run a big company these days?

Because knowingly creating and selling a product that can cause cancer in women and babies, and actively trying to conceal that risk – well, that seems about as sociopathic as it gets.

The Meddler

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