You may add a touch of baby powder on your toddler's skin to soothe a rash, dab some on your face to set your makeup, or dust a bit over your wardrobe or shoes to keep them smelling fresh. Whatever the use for baby powder, it's important you know the risks.
Talc is a naturally occurring mineral that's used in many personal care products, such as baby powder. In its raw form, some talc contains asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled, says the American Cancer Society.
"Most concerns about a possible link between talcum powder and cancer have been focused on whether people who have long-term exposure to talc particles at work, such as talc miners, are at higher risk of lung cancer from breathing them in, [and] whether women who apply talcum powder regularly in the genital area have an increased risk of ovarian cancer."
Scientists have been warning people who regularly use talcum powder of the possible association between the product and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is a part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified talc that contains asbestos as "carcinogenic to humans." And recently, consumers have begun to fight back. Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women with ovarian cancer who successfully sued the company in 2018, and more than $700 million to ovarian cancer-related lawsuits in 2016 and 2017.
As Reuters recently reported on Johnson & Johnson's baby powder, "from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company's raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors, and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public."
The FDA works to keep harmful substances out of household products and cosmetics, but unfortunately, companies are not required by law to test cosmetic products before they are sold (but cosmetics must be properly labeled and be safe for use by consumers). The FDA conducted a survey from 2009 to 2010 to try and identify talc-containing products. Of the nine talc suppliers identified and contacted, four supplies sent samples of their products. The researchers also purchased 34 cosmetic products in retail stores in the Washington D.C. area (from low to high in price) and tested them for asbestos contamination. While no asbestos was found in the talc-containing products tested, the FDA adds that this study was limited, and does not prove that most or all talc or talc-containing products in the country are likely to be free of asbestos contamination.
So far, talcum powder has been linked to a multitude of health problems, not just cancer. Research shows connections between baby powder and ovarian cancer, lung cancer, and other respiratory conditions like dried out mucous membranes, lung damage, and respiratory distress.
If you use baby powder containing talc, it's recommended that you stop. Talk to your doctor about a safe alternative.
Foley & Small is now accepting and litigating cases on behalf of clients who have reason to believe their cancer diagnosis is due to talcum powder. To learn more, call 574-288-7676, or visit them online at www.foleyandsmall.com.