Whether it is diapering a baby or the desire for a feeling of freshness, people have used talcum powder for many years. Recently, however, talcum powder has been linked to different types of cancer. As far back as 1976, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrances Association issued guidelines regarding talcum powder, requiring that any talc used must be asbestos-free. For peace of mind, skip talcum powder altogether and go with a cornstarch-based baby powder.

What is Talcum Powder

Talcum powder is made from a mineral composed of silicon, magnesium, and oxygen known as talc. People have used talcum powder over the years for a variety of tasks as it absorbs moisture, reduces friction, and prevents rashes. It is often found in baby powders, facial powders, and makeup. 

Cancer and Talc

Studies dating back to the 1970s have shown evidence linking talc to cancer. In nature, talc is often found near deposits of asbestos, which is a known cancer-causing substance. When not properly mined and refined, talc can become contaminated by asbestos particles. One study found that 75 percent of ovarian tumors contain talc particles and other studies indicated that using talcum powder may increase the risk of ovarian cancer as much as 30 percent. 

In fact, Johnson and Johnson, who manufacture many types of talcum powder, is facing over 9,000 lawsuits regarding the link between cancer and talc. Not only have there been links between ovarian cancer and talcum powder, but the American Academy of Pediatrics has also warned against using talcum powder on babies since 1969. 

Because talc can dry out mucous membranes, the use of the product can lead to pneumonia, asthma, lung fibrosis, and respiratory failure if inhaled. There have also been cases where talc caused aggressive lung cancer.

Alternatives to Talcum Powder

There are several alternatives for women to use other than talcum powder. These products may also be safer for baby girls as a diaper rash preventative than talc. These include:

  • Cornstarch
  • Arrowroot Starch
  • Baking Soda
  • Kaolin Clay
  • Oat Flour
  • Rice Starch
  • Tapioca Starch

Safety of Talcum Powder

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies talc that contains asbestos as a carcinogen. Even though today’s products are not supposed to contain asbestos, many still do. And the use of talcum powder on female genitals is still considered possibly carcinogenic based on research conducted by the agency. 

Therefore, talcum powder remains an unsafe product, even when purchased from established brands such as Johnson’s Baby. Instead, experts recommend using alternative products that offer the same drying properties as talcum powder.

Federal Drug Administration

In March 2020, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) completed initial testing of cosmetics to determine if talc-containing products included asbestos. According to the results, almost 21 percent of the products were positive for asbestos. This is despite regulations that do not allow asbestos to be included in any talc-containing cosmetic product. As a result of the testing, the FDA advised consumers to stop using the products. Some of the talc-based products recalled before the testing was complete, included:

  • Beauty Plus Global products including a color palette, blush, and two bronzers – September 2019
  • Claire’s eyeshadow, compact powder, and contour palette – March 2019
  • Claire’s JoJo Siwa Makeup Set – June 2019
  • Johnson’s Baby Powder – October 2019

The History of Asbestos

Asbestos is a very dangerous group of six silicate minerals that are composed of long thin fibers. Asbestos has been used by humans for 10,000 years and is contained in a wide variety of products. The first evidence of its use is in Scandanavian cooking pots in 8,000 BCE, as they must have discovered that it helped to keep the cookware heat-resistant.

Asbestos really came into common use during the industrial age and, by the mid-1900s, was being used in just about everything. The use people tend to most commonly associate asbestos with is as insulation in buildings. Asbestos made for an ideal insulator due to the fact that it is heat, fire, alkali, and acid resistant, it absorbs sound, can dampen an electrical current, and it is cheap and strong.

Unfortunately, despite all of the benefits of asbestos, it has one big drawback. It is very dangerous to our health. Asbestos has been linked to several different illnesses, most of which affect the lungs as people breathe in the tiny asbestos fibers. In addition to being linked to lung cancer, asbestos is the sole cause of asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Asbestosis is caused by getting asbestos fibers stuck in the lungs that cause inflammation and scarring. Common symptoms are cough, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. As asbestosis progresses, it can develop into lung cancer, heart disease, or mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare type of lung cancer, which forms in the mesothelium lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart. A mesothelioma diagnosis is devastating as the average life expectancy is about one year. This short life expectancy is in part due to this disease spreading throughout the body, but the main reason is that it is often caught too late. 

Mesothelioma can take years and even decades to present itself after asbestos exposure. By the time most people are aware of its presence, it has already progressed too far to manage.

Asbestos has been banned in many countries due to the negative health effects associated with this material. However, it is still legal in the United States. While the use of asbestos has diminished, it can still be found in small quantities in a wide variety of products. Although it is not purposely used in talcum powder, it still contaminates a large number of talc-based items.

Legal Options

If you have been diagnosed with ovarian or lung cancer and you often used talc-based products, you may be eligible for compensation. You may be able to receive compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering. 

If a loved one has died of cancer-related to talcum powder or other talc-based products, you may be eligible for a wrongful death claim. Contact a qualified attorney to discuss your options and decide how best to proceed.