It turned out that the seemingly harmless powder was life-threatening. In the previous ten years, tens of thousands of individuals filed lawsuits against the corporation, claiming that the talc in baby powder is a carcinogen and that frequent users were developing ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, an illness linked to asbestos exposure.
Johnson & Johnson decided to settle the lawsuits for $8.9 billion this week. Despite the fact that it may seem encouraging, the plaintiffs’ attorneys believe Johnson & Johnson was given a free pass. The business is said to have been aware of the connection between talc and asbestos since the 1970s. According to a thorough Times investigation, Johnson & Johnson made many attempts to conceal these facts from the public.
Black women in particular have been impacted. The National Council of Black Women filed a lawsuit in 2021, claiming that Johnson & Johnson targeted Black women exclusively in marketing and advertising despite being aware of the dangers of using baby powder.
“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,” Janice Mathis, the executive director of the National Council of Negro Women, said in a statement. She added, “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 & Johnson.”
The firm was advised to start marketing baby powder more directly to its “high propensity” clients in 2006, which included the 60% of Black mothers who used it compared to 30% of the general population. A company contracted by Johnson & Johnson sent 100,000 gift bags to Black women’s favorite hangouts in Chicago. According to the lawsuit, a radio commercial targeted “curvy Southern women.” After fighting upwards of 25,000 lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson agreed to stop selling baby powder in the U.S. and Canada in 2021. But the company said the settlements did not come with an acknowledgment of any wrongdoing. – Steve Sijenyi