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Johnson & Johnson marketed baby powder to Black women amid cancer concerns, lawsuit says

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A lawsuit alleging that Johnson & Johnson marketed talcum-based baby powder to Black women amid concerns over the product and ovarian cancer risks was filed Tuesday on behalf of the National Council of Negro Women.  

Attorneys Ben Crump and Paul Napoli, who filed the suit, accused the company in a statement Tuesday of "specific marketing of talcum-based baby powder to Black women, despite links to ovarian cancers.”  

The case cites reports describing Johnson & Johnson’s “targeted marketing to Black women,” including a report in 2019 from Reuters that nearly half of the company’s spending on promotions for baby powder in 2008 and 2010 was "directed at overweight and minority women."  

“This lawsuit is about the lives of our grandmothers, our mothers, our wives, sisters and daughters – all of whom were cynically targeted by Johnson and Johnson,” Crump said in the statement. “All the while, company executives knew the risk of ovarian cancer from talc.” 

Scientific findings on the link between talc-based baby powder and ovarian cancer are mixed. Findings as far back as the 1970s have tied the product to ovarian cancer, according to the Food and Drug Administration.  

A study of 250,000 women led by the U.S. government and published in January 2020 in the Journal of the American Medical Association did not find strong evidence of a link between baby powder and ovarian cancer. However, the study did not differentiate between talc-based baby powder and other products made with cornstarch and alternatives.  

Talc is a soft, naturally occurring mineral. It is often found in mines with asbestos.  

2020: Johnson & Johnson will stop selling talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder

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The lawsuit, filed in New Jersey, seeks legal costs, “equally targeted corrective outreach to the Black community” from Johnson & Johnson and more. 

Johnson & Johnson denied the allegations in a statement to USA TODAY: “The idea that our company would purposefully and systematically target a community with bad intentions is unreasonable and absurd.  

“Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, and our campaigns are multicultural and inclusive. We firmly stand behind the safety of our product and the ways in which we communicate with our customers,” the statement continued.  

Does baby powder cause cancer? Johnson & Johnson stops selling talc powder after years of scrutiny

Johnson & Johnson announced in 2020 that it would stop selling its talc-based baby powder in the USA and Canada. Corn-based baby powder is still available, and the talc-based product continues to be sold globally.  

Thousands of lawsuits have alleged that the use of baby powder led to ovarian cancer. Although some of the cases were overturned, the Supreme Court declined in June to hear an appeal from the company over a multibillion-dollar decision awarded to 22 customers.  

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: J&J marketed talc baby powder with cancer risk to Black women: lawsuit

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