The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, accusing the pharmaceutical company of specifically marketing its talcum baby powder products to Black women, despite knowing of concerns surrounding its potential links to cancer.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the group by leading civil rights attorney Ben Crump, points to internal documents from J&J that allegedly show it specifically targeted Black women for its talcum-based products.
“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,” NCNW executive director Janice Mathis said. “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. Shame on Johnson and Johnson."
This is only the most recent lawsuit against J&J over its baby powder products. In 2018, a jury ruled that J&J should pay $4.7 billion to 22 women and their families who claimed their products caused ovarian cancer. J&J requested that the Supreme Court review this verdict in May, a request the high court rejected.
“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 a press release. “All the while, company executives knew the risk of ovarian cancer from talc.”
Soon after the multibillion-dollar verdict, J&J announced that it would stop selling talc-based products, though it did not acknowledge any links between its products and carcinogens.
"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," a spokesperson for J&J told The Hill in a statement.
“We empathize with anyone suffering from cancer and understand that people are looking for answers. We believe those answers can be better understood through science — and decades of independent scientific testing by medical experts around the world has confirmed that our products are safe, do not contain asbestos, and do not cause cancer," they added.