Thousands of people in the U.S. have sued Johnson & Johnson, claiming that its talc-based products such as Baby Powder are contaminated by asbestos and caused cancer after routine use. Asbestos is a known human carcinogen and is mined in the same soil types as talc, but J&J denies that its talc-based products ever contain asbestos.
In 2018, however, Reuters issued an investigative report indicating that J&J has known for decades that at least some of its talc was contaminated by asbestos and took active steps to cover it up.
Following the Reuters report, J&J faced intense scrutiny over the safety of its talc-based products. In May, the company discontinued selling talc-based Baby Powder in North America, although it claimed this was due to adverse publicity and “misinformation” about the safety allegations, not liability concerns. It continued selling Baby Powder internationally.
“Decades of independent scientific studies by medical experts around the world support the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” J&J said in a statement recently. “We continue to offer this product in many other regions around the world where there is higher consumer demand.”
Does that decision put the international market — including people of color — at increased risk from the potentially contaminated product?
In June, J&J issued a statement committing to the fight against racial inequality.
Now, over 170 nonprofits have banded together with an advocacy group called Black Women for Wellness and issued a call urging the U.S. government to officially recall J&J Baby Powder and demanding J&J stop selling its Baby Powder worldwide.
In a statement, the executive director of Black Women for Wellness pointed out that J&J’s decision to keep selling Baby Powder internationally will often mean selling the product to Black and Brown consumers. How does that square with the June statement against racial inequality?
Meanwhile, the lawsuits claiming Baby Powder is contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos move forward.