The National Council of Negro Women is suing Johnson & Johnson, claiming the company specifically marketed its talcum-based powder products to Black women without warning them of their alleged link to cancer.
NPR reports that civil rights attorney Ben Crump and personal injury attorney Paul Napoli filed the complaint on behalf of the organization, which advocates for “women of African descent, their families and their communities.” According to the complaint–which can be read here–the group has a “large portion” of members who may have developed cancer after using the pharmaceutical company’s powder products. The NCNW is concerned that many more of its members may develop ovarian cancer in the future.
From the NCNW’s complaint:
Black women were the subject of Johnson & Johnson’s marketing and advertising campaigns for decades and were a central part of the company’s business strategy. A 2009 company business plan noted that the “multicultural consumer [is] highly important to business — need to maintain,” and expressed concern that it was becoming “difficult to efficiently retain core aa consumer.”
“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 NCNW executive director Janice Matthews. “Generations of Black women believed them and made it our daily practice to use their products in ways that put us at risk of cancer–and we taught our daughters to do the same.”
According to the American Cancer Society, talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral used in various products due to its moisture absorbing properties and ability to help cut down on friction. Some natural talc contains asbestos, which can cause cancer if particles travel inside the body. However, the cancer society says it’s not clear if talcum powder increases cancer risk.
Johnson & Johnson has routinely denied that its talcum-based powders cause cancer. The company provided the following statement to CBS News:
“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 stated.
The New York Times reports that Johnson & Johnson is currently facing more than 25,000 lawsuits over the products. Last year, the company stopped selling talcum-based products in the United States and Canada due to “changes in consumer habits” and “misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising.”
I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, my grandmother was all about having me sprinkle a little powder on for freshness whenever I got cleaned up for the day. So, it’s apparent that the company’s advertising worked on her and, based on the NCNW’s complaint, many other Black women.
Here’s to hoping that anyone who is concerned about their use of the products get some clearer answers sooner than later.