Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson marketed its talcum-based powder products specifically to Black women despite evidence showing the products cause cancer, a new lawsuit alleges, reports NPR.
The complaint, filed by the National Council of Negro Women, asserts that the New Jersey-based drug company made Black women a “central part” of its business strategy but failed to warn them about the potential dangers of the powder products it was selling.
“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,” said Janice Mathis, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women, in a statement.
“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 and Johnson,” she said.
The lawsuit is the latest in a wave of litigation against Johnson & Johnson over allegations that its talcum products, such as baby powder, have caused users to develop illnesses including ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. The company is facing more than 25,000 lawsuits related to the products and has set aside nearly $4 billion to fight the legal battles, according to the New York Times.
Johnson & Johnson has long maintained that its talcum-based products are safe and do not cause cancer. Last year, following a string of costly legal settlements, it stopped selling talcum products in the U.S. and Canada.
In a statement provided to NPR, the company denied the allegation that it singled out Black women as part of a marketing campaign driven by “bad intentions.”