Johnson & Johnson shares plummeted on Friday after an explosive report published by Reuters alleged the company knew about the presence of cancer-causing asbestos in its ubiquitous and iconic baby powder.
Reuters states that the number includes thousands of women with ovarian cancer.
It said nearly 12,000 plaintiffs were suing the company, claiming that its talc caused cancer.
Company executives, scientists, doctors and lawyers reportedly fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to the public.
An examination of the documents also revealed how J&J succeeded in curbing regulators' plans to curtail asbestos in cosmetic talc products as well as scientist research on talc's health effects, Reuters stated.
Reuters said that J&J turned down repeated requests for an interview for more than two months.
In July, a St. Louis jury awarded $US4.69 billion to 22 women who said its talcum baby powder gave them ovarian cancer.
J&J lawyers said: "Johnson & Johnson's baby powder is safe and asbestos-free".
The decline in shares wiped off about $24bn from the company's market capitalisation and made the stock the biggest drag on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indices. Reuters-along with attorneys for more than 11,000 plaintiffs now suing Johnson & Johnson, claiming the company's products caused their cancer-examined memos, internal reports, and other confidential documents as well as deposition and trial testimony.
J&J were sued in 1999 by Darlene Coker, who believed that her terminal mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, was caused by using baby powder.
According to Reuters, the documents also depict successful efforts to influence United States regulators' plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc.
Reuters report also states that J&J denied the claim.
Reuters added that "only a tiny fraction of the company's talc" was also tested each time.
"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", Ernie Knewitz, J&J's vice president of global media relations, wrote in an emailed response to the report.