June 2, 2020

The pressure on Johnson & Johnson to stop selling its talc-based flagship baby powder was mounting long before the announcement on Tuesday that they would stop selling it in the United States and Canada.

Decades of studies linking talc to ovarian cancer resulted in the World Health Organization finally classifying cosmetic talc as “possibly carcinogenic” in 2006, after having classified talc containing asbestiform fibres in its highest-risk classification nearly twenty years prior. Investigative reporting by Reuters revealed that Johnson & Johnson ignored such warning labels on shipments from talc suppliers. Facing stagnating sales, the company began a concerted effort to increase consumption by aggressively targeting African American women and other minorities.

In 2006, nearly 60% of African Americans used baby powder. An internal marketing proposal, uncovered by Reuters, stated that because the powder was still considered “a relevant product among AA [African American] consumers,” it was the “right place” to focus, suggesting emphasis be placed in “underdeveloped geographical areas with hot weather, and [a] higher AA population,” and later presentation material specifically targeted southern states.

Over the following years, J&J turned this plan into action by making a focused effort to distribute samples of baby powder to African American and Hispanic neighborhoods through beauty salons and churches. They launched promotions through weight-loss companies like Weight-Watchers aimed at teenage girls in minority communities.

As we have covered in greater depth, J&J was aware of the dangers posed by its talc-based products for decades and had made a concerted effort to fight studies that demonstrated links to ovarian and other cancers. As recently as 2019, J&J issued statements indicating that the product was safe and asbestos-free. Thousands of women across the country have challenged these assertions in court with several high-level verdicts in Ohio, California and elsewhere.

If you believe you or a loved one contracted ovarian cancer after using talc-based baby powder, you could have a claim. Our experienced attorneys at The Cochran Firm have fought for minority rights in exactly these cases achieving numerous high-level verdicts.