To get the latest experience from our website, please upgrade your browser.
Mothers, nurses and nannies use silky white talcum powder to treat diaper rash, to absorb moisture and as a deodorant. The mineral talc, from which talcum powder is developed, is a component of popular cosmetic and personal hygiene products used by many on a daily basis. However, new research links talc to ovarian cancer, and some women are suing drug makers because of it.
Talcum powder is a soft, white powder developed from talc, or magnesium silicate, a mineral composed primarily of magnesium, silicon and oxygen. When it is finely ground, talc absorbs moisture and helps reduce friction. These properties make made it widely used ingredient in cosmetics, personal hygiene products and many other common consumer goods.
Questions about the safety of talc and talcum powder arose several times over the past four decades, but now health-care experts charge that that they are linked to ovarian cancer and other serious conditions.
For generations, talcum powder was a fixture in American bathrooms and nurseries, and it was assumed to be an innocuous and soothing substance. Mothers, nurses and nannies dusted the bottoms of infants as an inexpensive and effective way to treat diaper rash and other minor irritations.
Skin-care product developers also put the silky substance in face powders (both loose and pressed), powdered eye shadow and blush products, among others.
|Grown men and women commonly use talcum powder as:|
|Body powders||Foot powders||Medicated powders|
|Perfumed powders||Deoderant powders||Sanitary & Incontinence pads|
Talc can cause respiratory problems, especially in infants. For this reason, use of baby powders containing talc is discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics and a majority of private pediatricians.
As powder is applied, particles of talc become airborne. When inhaled, these particles can cause wheezing, fast and shallow breathing, coughing and in some cases acute or chronic lung irritation, known as talcosis.
Inhalation of talc can also cause pneumonia and trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals. According to the CDC, individuals with long-term exposure to talc – miners and millers – inhaling it increases the incidence of serious chronic respiratory diseases and lung cancer.
Body powders and feminine hygiene products with talc as an ingredient were marketed heavily through the years for the prevention of vaginal odor in women and are commonly used for that purpose. However, evidence that first emerged in the 1970s linked the application of the powder to female genitalia to serious health effects, including ovarian cancer. When applied to the groin area of women, particles travel through the vagina and into the uterus and along the fallopian tubes to the ovaries. From there, it can take years to dissolve, and research shows that it can cause inflammation.
A number of studies associated talcum powder contamination with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. The journal Cancer Prevention Research published a study in June 2013 that showed women who dusted their groin area with talcum powder were shown to have a 20- to 30-percent greater risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who did not use talc products for intimate personal hygiene.
Among these lawsuits is a class-action suit filed in California against Johnson & Johnson. This suit seeks to force the company to properly inform consumers about the potential health risks of their talcum powder products.
A similar class action was filed in Illinois. In that case, Johnson & Johnson is alleged to have continued marketing its baby powder as safe product for use in infants and women despite a growing body of evidence linking the product with increased risk of ovarian cancer.
In another notable case, a South Dakota jury determined that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn consumers of the risk of ovarian cancer from talcum powder. This verdict was reached in a product liability lawsuit filed by a woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006. 56 year old Deane Berg had used Shower to Shower body powder for 3 decades. Talc was found in cancerous tissue removed from her body, and doctors determined these talc particles were the cause of her cancer.
Other legal action concerning talcum powder and ovarian cancer includes an investigation launched by the Mississippi Attorney General’s office. This investigation is centered upon Johnson & Johnson’s marketing practices, looking into whether the company has been promoting their talcum powder products for feminine hygiene.