Advocacy group Black Women for Wellness joined more than 170 groups from 51 countries to call on Johnson & Johnson to fully remove its talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder from the global market and “end the company’s targeting to Black women and other historically marginalized communities.”

The consumer health care giant announced May 19 that it would discontinue sales of its iconic talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada due to lagging sales. The safety of the talcum powder has come under scrutiny in recent years. Johnson & Johnson has been hit with mounting lawsuits alleging the talc it uses in its products can become contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen, and contributed to cancers such as ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

In October 2019, J&J recalled some bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder after testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed asbestos fibers in some bottles.

The groups include international, national, state and local organizations with what Black Women for Wellness says have “a shared interest in lifting up the voices of women and other individuals who are not invited into consumer safety and health policy discussions, even as they have been disproportionately impacted by the failures of the current system of cosmetic industry self-regulation.”

The organization specifically called out Johnson & Johnson for aggressively marketing its talc-based baby powder to women of color, distributing free samples in Black churches, and advertising on Spanish-language radio despite internal documents showing the company was aware at the time that its talc could contain asbestos. The organization also pointed to a 1992 internal memo where the company acknowledged talc’s potential links to cancer while also recommending increased marketing to African American and Hispanic women.

“Black Women for Wellness has known too many Black women suffering from reproductive and breast cancers; we are direct witnesses to the suffering, expense and harm caused to families by cancer. Marketing to African American and Latinx women with the continued sales of those same products containing toxic chemicals in international markets with majority Black & Brown women contradicts what they have said and calls into question the sincerity of their statements,” said Janette Robinson Flint, Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness.

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 Meadows, Leigh O’Dell or Brittany Scott.

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