Talcum Powder: Not as Fresh and Innocent as You Might Think (Asbestos, Ovarian Cancer)

For many years, doctors have been discouraging the use of baby powder for infants. Though it works well as a drying agent and fights against rashes, ointments are now the preferred remedy for diaper-related rashes. Have you wondered why? Talcum powder, which contains the mineral talc, is potentially harmful to infants, and it should never be used as a powder during diaper changing. Inhaled talcum powder causes serious breathing complications.

Talcum powder is toxic if swallowed. Inhaling talcum powder can cause twitching, fever, cough, breathing problems, convulsions, and collapse. Asbestos and products containing asbestos are not limited to industrial products like cement, insulation, brake pads, and other such items. A number of household products that also contained the hazardous mineral include baby powder and other similar talcum powders.

Although soft to the touch with a pleasant smell, powders containing talc also contain minute fibers that are strikingly similar to asbestos. Talc particles have been proven to cause both lung and ovarian cancers. In 1973, the Food and Drug Administration drafted a resolution that would limit the amount of asbestos-like fibers in cosmetic grade talc, but no ruling was ever made and cosmetic grade talc remains non-regulated by the federal government.

Increased rates of ovarian cancer have also been to result from frequent exposure to cosmetic grade talc. Up to 20 percent of U.S. pre-menopausal women regularly dust their genital area, sanitary pads or contraceptive diaphragms with cosmetic grade talcum powder. The FDA has neither banned the genital use of talcum powder, nor required industry to label it with explicit warnings. Cosmetic grade starch powder is a readily available safe alternative.

Currently, a coalition of public health experts, medical doctors and consumers organizations is petitioning the federal government for warning labels on cosmetic talcum powder products used by many women as part of their personal care regime – a warning that frequent use is linked to ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer among women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers), with one in 71 women affected, according to the American Cancer Society. There will be an estimated 21,650 new cases diagnosed in 2008, and 15,520 deaths. Overall, though, the incidence of ovarian cancer has declined slightly in the past 20 years.

Talc particles can move through the female reproductive system or through the pulmonary system and become embedded in vital organs, such as the ovaries or the lungs. Talc miners, for example, suffer from a much higher incidence of lung cancers than the general population because they are constantly inhaling small talc fibers. These lung cancers occur because industrial grade talc contains silica and asbestos, which is easily inhaled but cannot be expelled. The fibers cause scarring in the lungs and, eventually, lung cancers such as mesothelioma can develop.

There is good news for those who suffer from metastatic lung cancer, for whom talcum powder has recently been shown to stunt the growth of tumors. According to a study published in the European Respiratory Journal in April 2007, talc has shown to stimulate healthy cells to produce endostatin, a hormone released by healthy lung cells. Endostatin prevents new blood vessels from forming, slows cell growth and movement, and helps to cause nearby tumor cells to die off. Many individuals used baby powder daily without realizing its toxicity.

If you or anyone you know has developed mesothelioma or other similar lung cancers due to asbestos exposure from baby powder, you or they may have a legal right to compensation for loss of income and/or pain and suffering. For more details, take a few moments to contact our office to learn if you may be eligible for compensation.

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