Talc is a mineral made of hydrogen, magnesium, oxygen and silicon. It has many uses in makeup, cosmetics and industrial applications. Asbestos naturally forms in talc deposits, leading to contamination during mining. As a result, consumers have filed product lawsuits related to asbestos contamination.

Last Modified: September 7, 2023
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What Is Talc?

Talc is a naturally occurring silicate mineral mined from rock deposits in the Earth’s crust. Manufacturers crush, dry and mill talc into a fine, soft, white powder for various industrial and cosmetic products. Talc is known for its softness, lubricating properties, heat resistance, chemical inertness and absorbency.

Many industries have uses for talc, particularly the cosmetic industry. In the manufacturing sector, talc serves as a lubricant and filler in many products. It is also suitable for use in the automotive industry, where it reduces friction and wear. Even food processing plants take advantage of talc’s versatile characteristics.

Is Talc Safe?

Talc’s safety is a contested issue. Pure talc is generally safe, but talc contaminated with asbestos can pose serious health risks. Asbestos is a mineral that is carcinogenic when inhaled or ingested.

Talc deposits often contain asbestos because these minerals develop in similar geologic conditions. Manufacturers try to source asbestos-free talc, but pure talc deposits are rare. Mining practices attempt to separate talc and asbestos, but contamination still occurs.

Asbestos fibers are tiny and may be released into the air when contaminated products are disturbed during application or use. This carcinogenic mineral can cause mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and lung cancer, among other health conditions. Consumer talc products, including talcum powder, have contained asbestos fibers at varying levels.

No specific U.S. laws prohibit talc in consumer products from containing asbestos. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working on new regulations for talc products.

Is Talc Associated With Cancer?

Pure talc may not be carcinogenic, but talc containing asbestos can cause several types of cancer. There are mixed study results on whether a link exists between asbestos-free talc and cancer. Expert agencies have differing opinions on the possible link between pure talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared the use of talc in the genital (perineal) region as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” according to the agency’s June 2020 monographs on the identification of carcinogenic hazards to humans.

Over the past several decades, studies have linked talcum powder to an increased risk of various cancers, including mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. Asbestos is a known cause of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. Talcum powder users have developed these cancers after years of application.

Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer that occurs when tumors grow in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. It can take 20 to 60 years to develop. The primary cause is inhaling asbestos fibers. Some studies and lawsuits link long-term talcum powder use to mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

Lawsuit Information
Mesothelioma and ovarian cancer are among the injuries named in talcum powder lawsuits. Read more about lawsuits being filed against talc manufacturers.
View Lawsuits

Talcum Powder, Cosmetics and Other Products With Talc

Talc is used in many consumer products because of its soft, smooth and absorbent properties. Makeup, eye shadow, blush, lipstick and many personal care items contain talc. Most items sold after 1976 were supposed to be talc-free. Since then, many consumer products made with talc were found to have asbestos contamination.

In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found asbestos in nearly 20% of 52 cosmetic samples collected nationwide.

Examples of products that contained talc include:
  • Beauty Glazed Gorgeous Me Eye Shadow Tray Palette
  • Beauty Plus Global City Color
  • Children’s makeup sold by Claire’s
  • Jmkcoz 120 Colors Eye Shadow Tray Palette
  • Johnson’s Baby Powder
  • Just Shine Shimmer Powder, sold by Justice

The most high-profile case of asbestos-contaminated talcum powder is Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder. The company stopped selling talc-based baby powder in the U.S. in 2020, claiming “misinformation” about its safety.

Consumers have filed around 38,000 talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. Plaintiffs claim the company’s talc products caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

Industrial Uses of Talc

The industrial and manufacturing sectors use talc as a lubricant and filler to produce plastics, ceramics, paint, paper and rubber. Its lubricating properties make it suitable for automotive and electric components, where it reduces friction and wear.

Industrial products found to contain asbestos include:
  • Automotive components (gaskets and brake pads)
  • Ceramic glazes and clays
  • Construction materials such as joint compounds and textured coatings
  • Insulation materials because of talc’s heat resistance and insulting properties
  • Paper products
  • Paints
  • Plastics
  • Rubber

Jobs that expose workers to industrial-grade talc include ceramics jobs, factory jobs, paper production, talc mining and tile work. In addition to successful consumer products litigation, talc workers exposed to asbestos-contaminated talc have won lawsuits seeking compensation for mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and lung cancer.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.