Civil-rights attorney Ben Crump and Black women’s organization file lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over talc baby powder product

Attorney Benjamin Crump wearing  'Ben Crump Law' in Washington, DC as House Democrats and family members of George Floyd's family pose for a photo-op prior to a meeting to mark the one anniversary of his death, May 25, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol.
Attorney Benjamin Crump is seen as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) makes a statement as House Democrats and family members of George Floyd’s family pose for a photo-op prior to a meeting to mark the one anniversary of his death, May 25, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

National civil rights attorney Ben Crump has announced legal action against Johnson & Johnson on allegations of negligence at a press conference in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, according to a press release.

Crump is filing the suit on behalf of the members of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), an organization founded in 1935 with a mission to “lead, advocate for, and empower women of African descent, their families, and their communities.”

A complaint obtained by Insider alleges some members of the nonprofit organization developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s powder products. The suit accuses Johnson & Johnson of targeting their products to Black women “knowing that Black women were more likely to use the Powder Products and use them regularly. These Powder Products were not safe, however.”

“NCNW has thousands of members who have used J&J’s Powder Products. Some of those members have already been injured through the development of ovarian cancer caused by J&J’s Powder Products,” the suit states. “Others have legitimate reasons to believe that they will develop symptoms and are thus suffering psychological harm while also requiring immediate medical monitoring.”

According to internal documents viewed by Reuters, Johnson & Johnson’s marketing strategies were geared toward African American and overweight women, the outlet reported in 2019.

“This company, through its words and images, told Black women that we were offensive in our natural state and needed to use their products to stay fresh,” the organization’s executive director Janice Mathis said, according to the Washington Informer. “Generations of Black women believed them and made it our daily practice to use their products in ways that put us at risk of cancer – and we taught our daughters to do the same. Shame on Johnson and Johnson.”

According to the report, the company has previously denied claims that its powder products are not safe. The company has faced at least 25,000 lawsuits relating to its talcum baby powder as some consumers said the product caused their cancer, as Insider’s Grace Dean reported in February. According to Reuters, J&J pulled the product from store shelves in the US and Canada in 2020, citing a dip in demand. The same year, a court ordered the company to pay more than $US2.2 ($AU3) billion to 22 women who developed ovarian cancer after using the product.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission investigated Johnson & Johnson in 2019 amid allegations its talcum baby powders were contaminated with asbestos – a human carcinogen per the American Cancer Society.

The SEC investigation came after a 2018 Reuters article that revealed the company was aware of the possible asbestos contamination dating back to the 1970s.