The Dangers of Talcum and Why You Should Be Careful With It

Talcum, also called talc, is an ingredient in many things that people use every day. Most people probably know it more for how it is used in powder products.

Mine Talc

Mine Talc

In recent years, experts have drawn greater attention to the dangers that this mineral can constitute. What are those risks that you should know of?

About Talcum

Talc is a naturally-occurring mineral that is extracted from rock deposits. It comprises three main elements, namely: oxygen, silicon, and magnesium. Manufacturing companies transform it into a soft, fine powder known as talcum powder.

Read Also: Mesothelioma: A Promising New Treatment Extends Life Expectancy

The white powder from this silicate material is renowned for its ability to absorb moisture, prevent caking, and reduce friction. This explains why it is popularly used in some consumer products, including facial and baby powders, and industrial products.


Talcum is thought to be safe in most cases. However, its safety is increasingly being debated. While suppliers and companies that use it in their products maintain that it is safe, some researchers say otherwise.

Johnson & Johnson, a leading user of talc, for instance, claims that decades of research show that the mineral is safe. But certain studies counter this claim, linking it to some forms of cancer.

Studies carried out as far back as the 1960s and early 1970s suggested that talcum powder could increase the risk of cancer, especially in women.

Read Also: Drug Helps Shrink Mesothelioma Tumors

Apart from cancer, it is feared that the mineral may also expose a person to several other health issues.

There is the argument that the makeup or composition of talc determines whether it could potentially bring about problems.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t subject cosmetic products, including those containing talcum, to stringent conditions before their introduction. It, however, evaluates such products on evidence that they might constitute a threat. The agency now tests products that contain talc for traces of asbestos.

Talcum and Ovarian Cancer

A link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer had been observed since the 1960s. But the evidence was thought to be open to doubt.

However, several other studies have reported the connection. A 2016 Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention study, for instance, found that the risk of ovarian cancer was 44% higher among African American women that applied it to their genital areas.

Experts say that women who used powder containing talc throughout their lives are 30% more likely to have ovarian cancer.

Read Also: Mesothelioma: Immunotherapy a Potential Alternative to Chemotherapy

Different factors can increase the risk of those women using talcum powder to develop this disorder. A major one is asbestos being present in the mineral. When used around the genitals, the powder can find its way into the vagina and the ovaries. This can lead to a buildup of cancer-causing asbestos.

Low estrogen levels in women that use talcum can also increase their risk of developing ovarian cancer. The powder may result in inflammation as well, with this capable of promoting the disorder.

Talcum and Mesothelioma

To their credit, manufacturers often advise against inhaling products featuring this mineral. Ingestion or inhalation of talcum, whether intentional or accidental, may lead to mesothelioma.

A deadly form of cancer, mesothelioma is a problem of the tissue lining of major organs in the body, including the lungs, stomach, and heart. Inhalation of talc that contains asbestos promotes inflammation and scarring, which bring about this disorder.

Pleural mesothelioma is the type of this tumor that is most linked to talcum powder. Some researchers found that people who worked in talc mines were at an elevated risk of having the disorder.

Talcum and Lung Cancer

Based on the foregoing, it is easy to see how talcum powder may cause lung cancer or lung carcinoma. It may be worth stating that this tumor isn’t the same as mesothelioma, even though they might sound similar. While lung cancer afflicts the lungs, the other cancer type affects the lungs’ tissue lining.

Read Also: Warning! Talcum Powder Might Be Responsible for Mesothelioma a Rare Form of Cancer

Lung carcinoma doesn’t develop as easily from exposure to talc as mesothelioma. It is more likely to arise from long-term, significant exposure to the mineral. People who mine it or those exposed to asbestos-containing talc in home insulation products are at a greater risk.

Other Diseases and Dangers

The risks of talcum powder don’t stop at cancers. Researchers have identified several other conditions that could result from its use or exposure, including:

Many experts now advise against using talcum powder on babies. For many years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that it could cause babies to develop breathing issues and severe lung damage if they inhale it.

Johnson & Johnson was forced to recall 33,000 units of its popular Baby Powder in 2019 after the FDA found traces of asbestos in a sample.

Read Also: Warning! Talcum Powder Might Be Responsible for Mesothelioma a Rare Form of Cancer

Products Containing Talcum Powder

The products that have talc as a part range from consumer products – such as body powder, makeup products, and drugs – to industrial ones.

While most people know it for its use in cosmetic products, these actually constitute a very small fraction of products having it. The U.S. Geological Survey shows that just about two percent of talc produced and sold in America was used for cosmetics in 2019. Products such as paint, ceramics, and paper use it way more.

Below are some examples of products that are thought to have traces of talc:

  • Baby, body, and face powders – Johnson’s Baby Powder, Shower to Shower Body Powder, Anti Monkey Butt Powder, Nivea Pure Talc, LA Colors Pressed Powder Nude, etc
  • Makeup products – Maybelline New York Expert Wear Blush Gentle, Laura Mercier Foundation Powder Number 2, Dior 5-Colour Iridescent Eyeshadow Petal Shine, etc
  • Pharmaceuticals – Tramadol, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, ciprofloxacin, etc
  • Industrial products – National Gypsum ProForm All-Purpose Joint Compound, Dupli-Color High Heat Paint with Ceramic, Rust-Oleum spray paints, ceramic glazes, etc

Talcum Powder Lawsuits

There have been thousands of lawsuits against makers of products having talcum, most notably Johnson & Johnson. People have brought numerous class-action lawsuits against companies, seeking damages for diseases and other side effects believed to have come from their use of the powder.

Read Also: Virus Pandemic Health Implications for Mesothelioma Patients

Johnson & Johnson is the focus of the bulk of these legal actions because of its famous Johnson’s Baby Powder. Yet, all cosmetic products in the U.S. account for only a tiny fraction of all talcum usage in the country.

The renowned multinational company has maintained that talcum is safe. However, it has stopped selling its talcum powder products in the U.S. and Canada. This decision was mainly because of dropping sales, the corporation claimed.

Johnson & Johnson has been confronted with more than 17,000 talc-related cases over the years, according to the team behind still has to deal with more than 20,000 lawsuits connected to its talcum powder products.

The attorney general of New Mexico was among over 16,000 claimants that sued the company in January 2020. The applicants were seeking damages for cancer cases linked to its products. They claimed the manufacturer failed to provide sufficient safety warnings despite knowing for decades that its products contained asbestos.

Johnson & Johnson has been forced to pay huge compensations in some previous lawsuits. In October 2020, it agreed to settle more than 1,000 claimants with $100 million. That settlement was, perhaps, the company’s most recent.

Legal experts say that you may be eligible to get compensation if you (or a loved one) have a cancer diagnosis after using talcum. You must, however, be able to prove that the condition is linked to the powder. This diagnosis – of ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, or lung cancer – must also not have been made earlier than 2009.

Read Also: Lung Cancer Latest Facts: Causes, Risks, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prognosis




Want to Stay Informed?

Join the Gilmore Health News Newsletter!

Want to live your best life?

Get the Gilmore Health Weekly newsletter for health tips, wellness updates and more.

By clicking "Subscribe," I agree to the Gilmore Health and . I also agree to receive emails from Gilmore Health and I understand that I may opt out of Gilmore Health subscriptions at any time.