Johnson & Johnson Facing New Lawsuit for Deceiving Black Women Amid Baby Powder Ovarian Cancer Links

Photo: (Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Another lawsuit has been filed against Johnson & Johnson over its talc baby powder product linked to ovarian cancer. This time, an advocate for Black women and mothers has sued the pharmaceutical company for its deceptive marketing tactics.

Ben Crump and Paul Napoli, the lawyers for the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), said in a statement that Johnson & Johnson specifically targeted Black women to buy their baby powder despite company executives knowing the ovarian cancer risks. Their team cited that the company spent for promotions from 2008 to 2010 with overweight and minority women as targets.

"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.  

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In many Black households, Johnson & Johnson's talc baby powder has been a staple and a grooming need for decades. However, documents and studies dating back to 1968 suggest that the popular product has been contaminated with asbestos, which has carcinogenic effects.

Families of Victims Speak Out

During Crump and Napoli's press conference, family members of ovarian cancer victims said that they want justice for their loved ones. Lydia Huston said that she lost her mother to the disease in 2014. She said that her mother always followed a routine with her hygiene that included the baby powder.

NCNW director Janice Mathis also said that generations of Black women had used Johnson & Johnson products because they were convinced of its marketing's words and images. Mathis said that their mothers taught them to use the baby powder to stay fresh, and they passed on this habit to their daughters.

However, Johnson & Johnson has issued a statement denying that it targeted the Black community intending to deceive. The company also said that while they empathize with cancer patients, their products "do not contain asbestos," as proven by independent tests. The spokesperson said that they run marketing "multicultural and inclusive" campaigns to promote products that are safe to use.

21,800 Lawsuits Still in Court

It comes as the Supreme Court rejected the company's appeal to undo the awarding of $2.1 billion for 21,800 lawsuits filed against the company for talc powder. The Supreme Court said it would not hear the appeal to review the penalty sanctioned by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2020.

Most of the lawsuits were filed by women with ovarian cancer or their families, who Ken Starr represented. In his briefing, Starr told the Supreme Court justices that Johnson & Johnson refused to switch to alternatives when it found out that the talc powder had carcinogenic elements in 1973. Neal Katyal, the lawyer for Johnson & Johnson, said that Starr and his team and the other attorneys suing his client have deliberately been finding women with ovarian cancer to put on the stand.

Johnson & Johnson has reiterated that their baby powder is safe and that the matter they had to settle in court relates to the legal process, not the safety of their products.

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