Johnson & Johnson’s Talc Powder Product Marketing Still Aimed at Minority Groups Despite Cancer Claims

Decades of questioning the use and dangers of cosmetic talc powder in health and personal hygiene products finally came to light in 2006, when the World Health Organization began classifying cosmetic talc as “possibly carcinogenic.” At the head of the issue was well-known consumer product company, Johnson & Johnson along with its signature Baby Powder products. Despite tests revealing that the talc J&J uses is possibly harmful to humans and its related health risks, the company continues to focus on selling the product focusing on its longtime consumers. These groups include African-Americans, fitness enthusiasts and overweight women who use the products as a genital antiperspirant and deodorant. The inexpensive products are being explicitly marketed to improve the livelihood of a group of innocent consumers misinformed from a company undeterred by the concern about the health effects and cancer risks of talc.

Consequently, these same minority and overweight women audiences are being struck with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma and now make up a large number of the plaintiffs alleging that J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products were the cause. And in July of 2018, J&J was ordered to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women who had claimed that asbestos in the company’s talcum powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer and failed to warn consumers about the risks associated with its use.

2019 Special Report Highlights J&J’s Questionable Marketing Practices

On April 9, 2019, news agency Reuters, published a special report updating the public about some revealing, and beyond shady (bad) marketing practices aimed at minority and overweight women.

  • J&J distributed its Baby Powder samples through churches and beauty salons in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods.
  • Developed digital and print promotions with weight-loss and wellness companies that focus on these minority groups.
  • Launched a $300,000 radio advertising campaign in a half-dozen markets aiming to reach “curvy Southern women 18-49 skewing African American.”
  • Partnered with a promotions company to distribute 100,000 gift bags containing Baby Powder in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods in Chicago.

An internal company presentation from 2006 even revealed notes such as, “Powder is still considered a relevant product among AA consumers,” marking an opportunity to push the possibly dangerous product.

It’s been shown that J&J knew for decades that small amounts of asbestos had occasionally been found in its raw talc and in Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, based on test results from the early 1970s to the early 2000s. Today, J&J still disputes and continues to challenge any findings that show its products are harmful, yet the company is facing more than 14,000 claims its talc products caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, a rare disease linked to asbestos exposure.

When Injury Risks Are Known, Consumers Should Exercise Their Rights

While we want to believe the claims of a once trusted American household brand, we have seen that the harsh truth is often buried beneath too good to be true advertisements and market popularity. Corporations have shown time and time again that profits are more of a priority than consumer health and safety.

If you have been injured as the result of an unsafe product, please contact us now for a free consultation at (312) 332-2872, toll-free at 877-374-1417, or by completing our online case evaluation form.

Also read Levin & Perconti’s seven-part series focused on Companies Behaving Badly on the Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog.