The lawsuit alleges that Johnson & Johnson made a concerted effort to market its talcum powders to Black women, who were viewed as “high propensity” consumers.
Johnson & Johnson is facing a lawsuit alleging that the pharmaceutical manufacturer marketed talcum-based powder products to Black women, despite evidence suggesting that such products can cause cancer.
The lawsuit, says National Public Radio, was filed by the National Council of Negro Women earlier this week.
“NCNW has thousands of members who have used J&J’s powder products. Some of these members have already been injured through the development of ovarian cancer caused by J&J’s powder products,” the lawsuit alleges. “Others have legitimate reasons to believe that they will develop symptoms and are thus suffering psychological harm while also requiring immediate medical monitoring.”
In their complaint, the Council claimed that New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson has made Black women a “central part” of its business strategy—but failed to label or otherwise warn consumers if its products’ potential dangers.
NPR notes that, facing lagging “powder product” sales in the early- to mid-2000s, Johnson & Johnson devised a campaign to market its campaign to so-called “high propensity” consumers, including Black women.
The company’s data, says NPR, showed that 60% of Black women were using baby powder at the time, as opposed to 30% of the overall population.
“This company, through its words and images, told Black women that we were offensive in our natural state and needed to use their products to stay fresh,” said Janis Mathis, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women.
“Generations of Black women believed them and made it out daily practice to use their products in ways that put us at risk of cancer—and we taught our daughters to do the same,” Mathis said. “Shame on Johnson & Johnson.”
The lawsuit, notes Black Enterprise, was filed by attorney Benjamin Crump on behalf of the National Council of Negro Women.
Speaking at a Washington, D.C., press conference on Tuesday, Crump tried to clarify what, exactly, the lawsuit was all about.
“I would be remiss if I did not say exactly what this lawsuit is about,” Crump said. “It is about the lives of our grandmothers, our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our nieces, and our wives, and how they were sinisterly targeted by Johnson & Johnson.”
“This multi-billion-dollar corporation, their corporate executives, know about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer,” he said.
However, Johnson & Johnson has firmly denied Crump and the Council’s allegations.
“The accusations being made against our company are false, and the idea that our Company would purposefully and systematically target a community with bad intentions is unreasonable and absurd,” the company said in a statement provided to National Public Radio. “Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, and our campaigns are multicultural and inclusive.”