Jacqueline Fox was one of the first women to take on Johnson & Johnson for promoting genital use of its talc-containing baby powder and putting millions of women at risk for ovarian cancer. Recently, her son, Marvin Salter, wrote a commentary in the Columbia Daily Tribune chiding the consumer health care giant for declaring “Black lives matter” in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and announcing it will begin selling Band-Aids in several shades to better represent those with darker skin tones.
While both the statement of support and the new product seem to be positive steps in the right direction, “the truth is a bit darker,” Salter writes. “Johnson & Johnson actually ‘found’ Black people many years ago and targeted us with marketing designed to sell its baby powder. And they did it knowing that the talc in that powder might kill.”
Salter’s mother was one of those who heeded the advice from Johnson & Johnson — a company she thought was a trusted voice. She used Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene for decades. She died in 2013 at the age of 62 from ovarian cancer that she and other experts believe was caused by impurities including asbestos — a known carcinogen — in talc.
Johnson & Johnson has maintained that its talc is safe despite mounting lawsuits that claim exposure to its talcum powder products caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure. In May, however, J&J announced it would stop selling its iconic talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States and Canada due to lagging sales. The company said it would continue to sell its baby powder in other countries. “Presumably, it’s all right to cause cancer in women in other parts of the world where Black lives don’t matter as much,” Salter writes.
Recently, more than 170 groups from around the world, including the advocacy group Black Women for Wellness, called on Johnson & Johnson to remove its talc-containing products from the global market and “end the company’s targeting to Black women and other historically marginalized communities.”
Johnson & Johnson has tried to write off the health risks associated with talc-based baby powder as “junk science.” But recently a federal judge in New Jersey ruled that experts who have studied the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer can testify in court, marking a huge win for the 17,000 moms, sisters, and daughters with cancer who filed lawsuits holding Johnson & Johnson accountable.
“If Johnson & Johnson has decided to stop selling its baby powder in North America, it should do likewise with its now-colorful Band-Aids and its platitudes about racism,” Salter writes. “Please don’t sell us on your open-mindedness. You sold us on your products before and some of us are no longer here to talk about it.”
Beasley Allen is proud to have represented Salter’s late mother, Jacqueline Fox, in her case against Johnson & Johnson. Our 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.