Some recent, big lawsuits have been making news lately because they are over an ordinary hygiene product that many of us use: baby powder. The cases are over whether or not companies like Johnson & Johnson knew that their talcum powder products could cause cancer with regular use. Much of the evidence indicates that these products can contribute to cancer, especially after decades of using it.
Regular Talcum Powder Use Increases Risk for Ovarian Cancer
Thousands of people, mostly women, have started lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson over cancer. Most often the cases involve ovarian cancer. Some women who used baby powder regularly, often for decades, on their genital area, developed this kind of cancer.
Companies, like Johnson & Johnson, that make talcum powder products have insisted that they are safe and there is no connection to cancer, but the evidence says otherwise. One study, for example, looked at thousands of women and found that those who used baby powder regularly had a 30 percent increased chance of developing ovarian cancer. Other studies have actually found particles of talc in the ovarian tumors of women who died from this cancer.
In one lawsuit, in which the jury awarded the plaintiff $72 million, her lawyers presented evidence to back up concerns about ovarian cancer. The evidence came from internal memos that showed Johnson & Johnson executives knew that their talcum powder was contaminated with asbestos.
Your Baby Powder May Contain Asbestos
Talcum powder is made from the mineral talc, which is usually mined. It then gets ground down into a fine powder that is useful for preventing friction and absorbing moisture. The talc itself is largely harmless, although inhaling the small particles may cause some respiratory irritation.
What is in talcum powder that may be the culprit in contributing to cancer is asbestos. Also a mineral, asbestos can be found in natural talc deposits. In the 1970s the Personal Care Products Council stated that all hygiene products made with talc should be asbestos-free.
Unfortunately there aren’t actually any laws or regulations that force companies that make these products to assure they are free of asbestos. Studies have found that randomly-tested talcum powder products do often contain at least trace amounts of this harmful mineral.
Asbestos is a mineral that is known to cause cancer in some people exposed to it. It is most often associated with mesothelioma, a rare cancer that most often develops in people who worked around asbestos for years. However, the presence of asbestos in baby powder may explain why some people get diagnosed with any type of cancer, including ovarian cancer, after years of use.
Safer Alternatives to Talcum Powder
Women who have used talcum powder for years could be at risk for cancer, but another concern is for babies. Baby powder is a common way to prevent rashes and keep babies comfortable. But, the risks may be too high for some parents to accept. Some less risky alternatives for anyone, babies and adults, include corn starch, tapioca starch, baking soda, oat flour, arrowroot starch, kaolin clay, and rice starch. You can also find commercial baby powders that do not use talc.
The risk of developing cancer from using talcum powder is alarming. There is real, solid evidence that talc can contain asbestos and that it contributes to the development of ovarian cancer. This is reason enough to try something different. Safer alternatives absorb moisture and reduce friction, just like talcum powder.