The public’s growing knowledge about the danger of talcum powder is linked to the public’s knowledge about the potential harm of asbestos.
For decades, people worked near or with asbestos and put their bodies at risk of later developing a deadly cancer. Mesothelioma and talcum powder, for instance, are linked because asbestos is the only known cause of this rare cancer.
Talcum powder on its own is not necessarily dangerous. The powder ingredient helps keep skin dry and improves the quality of skincare.
However, talcum powder comes from the mineral talc. It exists in the same geographic areas as asbestos, which is another mineral. This means the two minerals are near one another in the earth’s soil. When they accidentally mix together during mining, loose asbestos fibers can be caught in the process of turning talc into talcum powder.
Do All Talc Products Have Asbestos?
Every product that contains talc can have asbestos. Not all of them do, but there’s no way of knowing which ones do and don’t. Therefore, it’s not safe to use any products with talc as an ingredient.
Any product that has talcum powder as an ingredient can include asbestos. Mesothelioma Guide has identified three popular brands or types of health and beauty products that may be dangerous to use. Each of these have been blamed for cancer at least once.
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder was for decades arguably the most popular type of talcum powder in the U.S. market. For this reason, Johnson & Johnson’s popular brand was the culprit for thousands of cancer cases.
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder has been linked to at least three cancers, all of them caused by asbestos:
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
Lung cancer and ovarian cancer can happen for other reasons besides asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma and baby powder is connected due to asbestos. Mesothelioma is only caused by asbestos fibers irritating tissue in the body. Talcum powder and lung cancer are linked, but smoking cigarettes is the most likely cause of lung cancer.
Johnson & Johnson recalled some of its talc Baby Powder a few years ago and decided in 2020 to stop selling the talc version of the product in U.S. and Canada markets. The company cited the ongoing legal issues – approximately 30,000 cancer lawsuits – due to the brand. The company has started manufacturing a new talc-free powder for babies. The brand Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder is still not safe to use if it includes talc.
Cosmetics and Makeup
Many cosmetic products, such as makeup, contain talcum powder. Eye shadow, blush, lipstick, mascara, foundation and other beauty product types use talc because the mineral gives them a silky texture. This texture makes cosmetics easier to apply.
Talc in makeup has led to many cancer cases and cancer lawsuits, especially among women.
Many eyeshadow and blush brands are moving to talc-free makeup. Talcum powder alternatives include cornstarch. This effort is due to the possibility of cancer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ran a test in 2020 of cosmetic products. Around 23% of samples contained detectable traces of asbestos. Since asbestos fibers are undetectable to the naked eye and require a microscope, it’s possible even more samples had asbestos that wasn’t detected.
The Environmental Working Group ran a test of cosmetic products and found asbestos in 15% of brands. There was asbestos in two eye shadow palettes and one children’s toy makeup kit.
Chanel After-Shower Items
Some of Chanel’s after-bath products reportedly contained asbestos. Chanel is a defendant in cancer lawsuits related to using talcum powder.
These after-bath items include body powders, similar to Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder. Chanel announced in 2020 it was pivoting away from using talcum powder as an ingredient in many of its brands.
Other brands reportedly using talcum powders and potentially with dangerous asbestos include:
- Claire’s (cosmetics)
- Degree (deodorant)
- Centrum (multivitamins)
Talcum powder is also an ingredient in some brands of chewing gum, food processing, crayons, toothpaste and shaving items.
Sources & Author
- Alert: Tests Find High Levels of Asbestos in Children’s Makeup Kit. Environmental Working Group. Retrieved from: https://www.ewg.org/release/alert-tests-find-high-levels-asbestos-children-s-makeup-kit. Accessed: 01/23/2020.
- Asbestos Found In Ten Powders. New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/1976/03/10/archives/asbestos-found-in-ten-powders.html. Accessed: 03/24/2020.
- What Is Talc, Where Is It Used and Why Is Asbestos a Concern? The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/14/business/talc-asbestos-powder-facts.html. Accessed: 11/18/19.
- Analysis: Talc-Based Cosmetics Test Positive for Asbestos. Environmental Working Group. Retrieved from: https://www.ewg.org/release/analysis-talc-based-cosmetics-test-positive-asbestos. Accessed: 12/02/2020.
Sources & Author