Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder

J&J CEO’s spin on racism raises questions about company’s former marketing tactics

As public protests over the murder of George Floyd broke out in cities across the country, and demand for racial justice reached new heights, corporate CEOs vowed to do their part to end systemic racism. Even Alex Gorsky, Chairman and CEO of consumer health care giant Johnson & Johnson proclaimed “unequivocally that racism in any form is unacceptable.”

“But examine the impact of these companies on the lived experience of Black people and it’s clear these commitments fall far short of restitution,” Anna Lappé wrote in Earth Island.

Johnson & Johnson is facing thousands of lawsuits filed by women who claim genital use of the company’s talc-containing products for feminine hygiene caused them to develop ovarian cancer. Internal documents produced during trials prove that the company knew for decades that the talc it used could become contaminated with asbestos — a known carcinogen — and other contaminants. But the company never informed federal authorities or warned consumers.

Instead, Johnson & Johnson launched marketing campaigns aimed specifically at Black and Brown women, encouraging genital use of its iconic Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder. J&J even gave away samples of its talcum powders in churches and beauty salons in African American and Latino neighborhoods. What’s the fallout? Black women who used talcum powder on their genitals had a more than 40% increased risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to Black women who did not use the powder, according to one study.

“If these companies were really committed to Black lives, their statements would have included an honest reckoning with their own products and practices, past and present, and a pledge to act on such reckoning,” Lappé wrote.

Beasley Allen lawyers continue to investigate new cases involving women diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder for feminine hygiene. For additional information on these cases, contact Ted MeadowsLeigh O’Dell or Brittany Scott.

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