Organizations from over 51 countries called for Johnson & Johnson pharmaceuticals calls for the medical giant to issue a worldwide talcum powder recall due to the risk of cancer and asbestos contamination in J&J Baby Powder.
Nearly 200 consumer watchdog groups, environmental organizations, and universities banded together from across the world to send a letter to Alex Gorsky, the CEO and Chairman of Johnson & Johnson, asking that the company remove all of their talc-based products from the global market. The letter was signed by activist groups including Black Women for Wellness, the American Public Health Association, Breast Cancer UK, and Center for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED).
After increasing safety complaints, on May 19 Johnson & Johnson announced their decision to discontinue sales of their talc-based baby powder in both the U.S. and Canada. They still plan to continue selling these controversial products in markets in other countries. However, activist groups call for more concrete steps to protect women and talcum powder users from severe injuries.
“This halfhearted announcement represents a baby step toward the kind of meaningful commitment needed by J&J to protect Black women, and women everywhere, from the serious health risks associated with exposure to asbestos-contaminated talc-based baby powder,” wrote Janette Robinson Flint, the Executive Director for Black Women for Wellness. “Documents produced during J&J litigation revealed the company was aware since the late 1950's that the talc used in Johnson’s Baby Powder sometimes contained asbestos.”
Request for Discontinued Talcum Powder Sales
The letter was released a week after a Missouri appeals court upheld a $2.1 billion trial verdict in favor of a group of women who claimed they developed ovarian cancer from talcum powder use. The court found sufficient evidence to support the jury’s findings that Johnson & Johnson knew talcum powder could cause ovarian cancer and still sold it to consumers without warning of the risks.
Currently, Johnson & Johnson faces nearly 20,000 lawsuits from injured talcum powder across the United States. Each of these claims alleges consumers were injured by regular exposure to talcum powder, which caused them to develop ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, and other injuries.
In these talcum powder lawsuits, individuals allege that J&J knew since 1894, the year Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder hit the market, that talc in talcum powder could cause cancer but chose to withhold this information from consumers. Instead, they aggressively marketed their products to women, specifically from African American and Hispanic descent.
“Instead of warning consumers about possible health risks, internal J&J documents show that your company instead doubled down on aggressively marketing its talc-based baby powder to women of color, distributing free samples in Black churches and advertising on Spanish-language radio,” the letter states. “An internal J&J memo from 1992 acknowledged the potential links to cancer, while simultaneously recommending increased marketing to African American and Hispanic women.”
The letter requests for Johnson & Johnson to issue a complete talcum powder recall worldwide and safely dispose of the U.S.’s and Canada’s remaining inventory.