U.S. Reprepresentatives Ayanna Pressley and Ro Khanna lashed out at Johnson & Johnson during the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy March 12 about a 1992 marketing plan by the consumer health care giant that specifically targeted African-American and Hispanic consumers. This despite records showing a decade earlier the company was aware of a study that indicated talcum powder for personal hygiene was linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
“While my line of questioning at today’s critical @OversightDems hearing uncovered Johnson & Johnson’s marketing ploy targeting minority women, I stand with the family members who attended today & promise to fight for all women have suffered because of this deadly product,” Rep. Pressley tweeted immediately following the meeting.
The issue was made even more personal by the testimony of Marvin Salter, whose mother, Jackie Salter Fox, died from ovarian cancer in October 2015 after decades of using Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene.
“I sincerely believe Johnson & Johnson took my mother’s life,” he said. “Had we known then what we know now, we never would have brought this product into our household … in the African-American community, it’s a staple for uses for hygienic freshness.”
The Congressional committee met to examine the link between talcum powder and cancer. The testimony comes three months after a Reuters investigation revealed that Johnson & Johnson’s internal documents showed that the company knew for decades that the talc it used in its products contained cancer-causing asbestos and other impurities. Asbestos is a mineral mined from the earth in similar fashion and proximity to talc. The company faces more than 12,000 lawsuits alleging its talcum powder products have caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
The committee meeting also raised concerns about the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) limited oversight into cosmetics. In early March, the FDA announced plans to grill cosmetics companies about procedures they use to ensure their talc-containing products are safe and free of asbestos. The announcement came after the agency revealed that testing on talc-containing cosmetics marketed to tweens by retailers Claire’s and Justice tested positive for asbestos.