Baby products, like baby powder, have long been considered to be gentle and safe, but new information and a slew of lawsuits are proving your favorite talcum powder may be anything but. Moms and anyone who uses talcum powder need to know that some of these products have tested positive for traces of the carcinogenic mineral asbestos.
What is Talc and Asbestos?
Talc and asbestos are both minerals that can be mined and used in a variety of products and materials. Talc is ground down into a fine powder that provides protection against friction and moisture absorption, which has made it a desirable material for body powders and baby powders.
Asbestos is now heavily regulated and restricted, but it was once used extensively in a variety of industries, especially construction, manufacturing, and shipbuilding. It was found to be carcinogenic and to be linked to several health problems, especially the deadly and rare cancer known as pleural mesothelioma.
When fibers of asbestos are inhaled or ingested they pierce tissues in the body and may cause cellular damage that leads to cancer. Asbestos can cause pleural mesothelioma around the lungs, peritoneal mesothelioma in the abdomen, lung cancer, and a respiratory disease called asbestosis.
Is There Asbestos in Talcum Powder?
It is well known that talc deposits in the earth are often contaminated with asbestos. Manufacturers are supposed to ensure that their talcum powder products have been purified, that there is no longer any asbestos lurking in them by the time they get to consumers. And yet there is evidence that talcum powder products you buy at the store may contain asbestos. In fact, one study actually tested several different products made with talc and found that many baby powders did have asbestos fibers.
Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer
Further evidence that asbestos may be an issue in talcum powder is the fact that there is a higher risk of ovarian cancer in women who regularly used baby powder. More than one study has shown that the increased risk is significant, and some have even found particles of talc in the tumors of women who died from ovarian cancer. This suggests that talcum powder migrated from external application to their ovaries, where asbestos may have been the culprit in triggering cancer development.
Lawsuits Prove Manufacturers Knew about Asbestos
Several women have sued companies, especially Johnson & Johnson, over developing cancer from years of baby powder use. In one case the lawyer of a plaintiff brought evidence that the company did know there was asbestos in their products. The internal memo proved several people in the company were aware of asbestos and that they failed to warn consumers of the potential risks.
Keeping Babies Safe
It’s not just women who use talcum powder. Moms have relied on it for generations to prevent rashes and irritated skin on their babies. Not only is asbestos a concern, but there are other issues. Inhalation of the fine talc powder can cause respiratory distress in infants, sometimes severe. An alternative to using baby powder is to change diapers more often to prevent rashes and to use oil-based ointments as needed. Older children and adults can use corn starch instead of baby powder.
Talcum baby powder is a common hygiene product, but it may not be safe to use. For babies and for adults, there is enough evidence that asbestos could be in these products and that regular use can lead to cancer that alternatives are recommended. While some products may be safe and asbestos-free, right now there is no way for consumers to know for sure.