The wheels of progress sometimes turn too slowly for our liking. Sometimes, they appear to not be turning at all.
Efforts to bring corporate injustice, maliciousness and greed to light can feel like they fall flat. Attempts to shed light on a public health crisis caused by a lack of transparency and truthfulness are void of meaningful, long-term changes.
Activism often doesn’t feel too active — at least in terms of actively making the world noticeably better.
That’s why the Johnson & Johnson baby powder news is so powerful and meaningful.
Last month, roughly two weeks ago, the news hit: Johnson & Johnson announced it would no longer produce and sell its popular talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada. The corporate giant’s baby powder has been a staple of American consumerism since the 1890s, but it was tied to cancer, mesothelioma in particular.
There have been thousands of lawsuits alleging that years of using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder led to developing mesothelioma. There have been handfuls of studies, research and tests confirming that:
- Yes, talc and asbestos can mix
- Yes, talcum powder can include loose, sharp strands of asbestos
- Yes, asbestos in talcum powder can cause mesothelioma
Add those facts up, and consider that Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is a talc-based product that relies on talcum powder to keep skin dry and healthy. Your answer is, yes, Johnson & Johnson baby powder can, and likely has, caused many a mesothelioma diagnosis and death. So too do many other talc-based products from various manufacturers.
Court verdicts topping $100 million say the same.
That’s why organizations stayed on top of Johnson & Johnson: to hold the corporation accountable for putting consumers’ lives at risk. They did it to cause some form of change, in some way, to better protect the regular, hard-working, everyday American who has no way of knowing what hidden ingredients lay in the products they use.
The end result was a permanent change, one that may guard Americans in the future from developing mesothelioma. The change should save lives.
Years, even decades, of effort led to the Johnson & Johnson news. Years of effort that seemed stagnant at times. Years of effort that seemed to go nowhere, to not amount to any change.
Yet, this effort continued, coming from many different sectors of the American public:
- Researchers investigating the link between talc, asbestos and mesothelioma
- Health groups like the Environmental Working Group conducting tests of products for the presence of asbestos
- Media outlets, like TIME and the New York Times, reporting on legal and research news related to Johnson & Johnson
- Organizations like Mesothelioma Guide holding Johnson & Johnson accountable
- And lastly, and most importantly, regular American citizens taking action
None of this is possible without the last part. None of the other groups’ effort matters without everyday Americans caring about the health risks associated with the Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder brand.
Johnson & Johnson said it point-blank in the press release: “Demand for talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America has been declining…” Read through those words for the simple truth: People do not want this product anymore.
You and other Americans listened to the health experts, media reports and activist organizations, and you then made a thoughtful decision about your health. You forced Johnson & Johnson to care about the reported hazards of their product.
This was also possible because Americans took action for their or their loved one’s cancer diagnosis. They weren’t afraid of Johnson & Johnson. Of reaching out to support groups for answers. Of speaking with a lawyer. Of filing a lawsuit. Of making a corporate giant answer questions and face public criticism for putting millions of people in danger.
These brave victims didn’t just accept their mesothelioma diagnosis — and their potentially shortened life. They did something that could — and now will — protect others from the same preventable misfortune.
Johnson & Johnson took its baby powder off of the North American market because activism — no matter how big or small, no matter whether it was spoken, written or kept personal — works. Activism changed a company’s business practices, and it will save lives.