Witnesses cite J&J cover-up, targeting of minorities; demand strong FDA oversight
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Outrage over the Food and Drug Administration’s inability to regulate cosmetics and protect consumers from potential talcum-powder cancer risks dominated testimony in an unprecedented congressional hearing Tuesday.
The hearing included sworn testimony that Johnson & Johnson has known of the cancer risks of its talc products for decades, resisted efforts to use warning labels, and specifically targeted minority communities.
“I sincerely believe Johnson & Johnson took my mother’s life,” said Marvin Salter, whose mother died from ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and other talc-based products for more than 30 years. “Had we known then what we know now, we never would have brought this product into our household. … In the African-American community, it’s a staple for uses for hygienic freshness.”
Witness Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group, described the FDA as operating in a “regulatory black hole” that fails to protect consumers and allows cosmetics manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson to “self-regulate” and operate without transparency when it comes to dangerous ingredients in cosmetic products.
The testimony before the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy drew support from members of Congress, who pledged to move forward with bipartisan efforts to improve FDA’s oversight. The agency currently oversees the cosmetics industry with a law that has not changed in more than 80 years. U.S. Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Ro Khanna expressed outrage that a 1982 study known to Johnson & Johnson demonstrated that talcum powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer. Yet a 1992 J&J marketing plan specifically outlined a strategy to target African-American and Hispanic consumers because those communities had historically used talc products at higher rates.
“For well over a half a century, tests confirmed instances in which Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder was contaminated and yet the company moved forward with aggressively marketing its potentially dangerous product to women of color despite these consequences,” Rep. Pressley said.
Without adequate regulation of talc products, thousands of women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. Attorney Ted Meadows of the Beasley Allen Law Firm, which represents many of those women, including Mr. Salter’s deceased mother, Jacqueline Fox, said the hearing may prove to be a tipping point in the talc-ovarian cancer debate.
“The hearing further validated what we have known for years and heard at trial. The science confirms that the use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene can cause cancer. Johnson & Johnson has been aware of this fact for years and has chosen to deny and cover up the evidence, rather than come clean,” Mr. Meadows said. “Cosmetic products containing talc should be removed from the market, and victims should be compensated for the decades-long pattern of negligence and lies put forth by Johnson & Johnson.”
Androvett Legal Media