Johnson & Johnson Sued for Reportedly Marketing Products to Black Women That Cause Cancer

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Johnson & Johnson is being accused of targeting Black women with talc-based baby powder that causes ovarian cancer, according to CNN reports.

The National Council of Negro Women and their attorneys, which includes civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, filed their complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey claiming that Johnson & Johnson targeted Black women through “deceptive marketing,” which included passing out free samples of its talc-based powders at beauty salons and running advertising campaigns. 

“Internal documents demonstrate 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 stated. “We now know what J&J knew long before it pulled its talc-based products from the market—that J&J’s powder products can cause ovarian cancer.”

Janice Mathis, the group’s executive director, said the goal of the lawsuit is to create awareness about the risks that talc-based powder may pose and to encourage Black women to get cancer screenings.

“We’re going to mount a campaign to make sure every Black woman and her family understands that you may have a lurking illness that you may have to get treatment and care for,” she argued. “[J&J] knew early on that it was almost impossible to mine talc without contaminating it with asbestos. We know they knew it because they’ve taken it off the market. You can’t buy it now.”

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that its 2020 decision to halt the sale of its talc-based baby powder in the US and Canada “had nothing to do with the safety of the product.”

“Demand for talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits” fueled by “misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising,” according to CNN.

According to The New York Times, some 12,000 women and their families have sued J&J over the past 25 years after multiple studies found a considerable link between talc use and ovarian cancer. 

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The American Cancer Society stated that talc that has asbestos in it “is generally accepted as being able to cause cancer if it is inhaled,” but notes that “the evidence about asbestos-free talc is less clear.”

This lawsuit is just the latest blow to Johnson & Johnson who have not been having the best year. The company announced earlier this month that five of its aerosol sunscreen products are being pulled off the shelf after some samples were discovered to contain low levels of benzene, a chemical that causes blood cancers such as leukemia. Also, the rollout of their COVID-19 vaccine faced production issues and was linked to a rare nerve syndrome. 

Johnson & Johnson has allocated $4 billion for potential verdicts and settlements.

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