Baby powder was a staple in our bathroom when I was growing up. I vividly remember the white powder container standing prominently on the countertop. Like so many families, the most common use was after a bath. To this day, the smell of baby powder makes me think of clean babies and children.
Baby powder has joined a growing list of products marketed to familes that could be harmful. Much like Tide Free and Gentle laundry detergent, it can sometimes contain a cancer-causing ingredient: talcum powder.
Babies aren’t the only ones using baby powder. Many adults continue to use baby powder as part of their daily ritual in place of deodorant or for feminine hygiene. Remember the Shower to Shower ad: “A sprinkle a day keeps odor away”?
What is talcum powder?
According to the American Cancer Society: “Talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral made up mainly of the elements magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. As a powder, it absorbs moisture well and helps cut down on friction, making it useful for keeping skin dry and helping to prevent rashes.”
What’s the problem with baby powder with talc?
Prior to 1970, many powders contained talc which also contained asbestos, a known cancer-causing chemical. After the 70’s consumer products no longer used talc with asbestos. The safety of asbestos-free talc, which is still widely used in many products, is less clear and has been possibly linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had listed talcum powder as possibly carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans when applied to the genital area.
Listing talcum powder as possibly carcinogenic is enough reason for me to never use it! It’s hard to understand why these companies would continue to use talc as the main ingredient in their products if there’s a possible connection to ovarian cancer.
The evidence that talcum powder is dangerous continues to mount. Two juries in St. Louis have found Johnson & Johnson responsible for causing ovarian cancer by awarding $72 million to one cancer plaintiff and $55 million to another. And the cases again Johnson & Johnson continue to grow with 1,800 cases having been filed in St. Louis against Johnson & Johnson for its talcum powder.
The cases claimed that Johnson & Johnson knew “about the hazards associated with talcum powder, and it basically conspired to hide that fact from the public and from the medical community.”
What products can have talc?
Talc is widely used in makeup, baby powder and adult body and facial powders. It can also be found in food, such as rice and chewing gum, and a number of other consumer products.
Johnson & Johnson baby powder still contains talcum powder. According to Johnson & Johnson “We continue to use talc in our products because decades of science have reaffirmed its safety.”
What you can do and there are alternatives!
My question is why risk it? There’s no need to use talcum powder (a possible cancer-causing substance) when there are talc-free alternatives out there.
Before you purchase a product read the label! Make sure that what you’re buying doesn’t contain talc.
Here are a few talc-free alternatives:
- Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Dusting Powder ($10 for 4.5 ounces)
- Organic Talc-Free Baby Powder from The Honest Company ($11 for 4 ounces)
- California Baby Non-Talc Powder ($17 for 2.5 ounces)
- Nature’s Baby Organics Silky Dusting Powder ($7 for 4-ounce container)
Reach out to Johnson & Johnson and other retailers. Let them know that if they’re not going to remove talc from their products we demand a warning on the label on products.
Stop using baby powder and other products with talc. Did you know there was an issue with talcum powder?