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Johnson & Johnson has been sued by a Black women’s advocacy group who accuses the brand of marketing the company’s talcum-based products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder, to African-American women.
They claim that the company knew for years that talc had been linked to ovarian cancer.
“NCNW has thousands of members who have used J&J’s Powder Products. Some of those members have already been injured through the development of ovarian cancer caused by J&J’s Powder Products,” the suit states. “Others have legitimate reasons to believe that they will develop symptoms and are thus suffering psychological harm while also requiring immediate medical monitoring.”
According to a U.S. government-led analysis of 250,000 women, evidence linking baby powder with ovarian cancer was called “very ambiguous,” by the study’s lead author.
However, the company has faced at least 25,000 lawsuits relating to its talcum baby powder, which last year were pulled from store shelves in the U.S. and Canada in 2020. A court also ordered the company to pay more than $2.2 billion to 22 women who developed ovarian cancer after using the product.
Talcum is a mineral often found in the same mines as asbestos, which is known to cause cancer.
Attorneys for the National Council of Negro Women filed their complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey Tuesday morning. A press conference was held, headed by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.
“This lawsuit is about the lives of our grandmothers, our mothers, our wives, sisters and daughters — all of whom were cynically targeted by Johnson and Johnson,” Crump said in the Tuesday statement. “All the while, company executives knew the risk of ovarian cancer from talc.”
Johnson & Johnson denies the claims, saying that “the idea that our company would purposefully and systematically target a community with bad intentions is unreasonable and absurd.”
“Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, and our campaigns are multicultural and inclusive. We firmly stand behind the safety of our product and the ways in which we communicate with our customers,” the statement to USA Today continued.
But according to the lawsuit, there is evidence to the contrary.
“Internal documents demonstrate that J&J targeted those advertisements to Black women, knowing that Black women were more likely to use the powder products and to use them regularly,” the complaint reads in part. “These talc powder products were not safe, however.”