When you think of asbestos containing products, you typically imagine construction materials. Tiles, flooring, insulation and fireproofing material all come to mind. But baby powder?
It sounds odd, but baby powder is actually very close in chemical composition to asbestos. This is because it contains talc. Talc has been shown to often contain asbestos. Products such as baby powder, feminine hygiene products and even cosmetics contain talc. Because powder is often used on the genitals of both babies and adults, it has been linked to the development of ovarian cancer. Studies in this area have not been conclusive, but it is probably best to avoid talc altogether to be safe.
Now, what is it that makes the main ingredient in baby powder—talc—so similar to asbestos? It has something to do with the way it is made. Talc is a mineral and is made into a powder by crushing and milling the rocks. Very small fibers can be present in the powder that remains.
Frequent inhalation of talc has, at times, been linked to lung cancer, especially in those that mine talc. Babies are especially at risk, and several have died as the result of baby powder inhalation. Women that frequently use baby powder to absorb genital moisture are also at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. In fact, some doctors treating these women have found talc residue in the tumors themselves.
Industrial grade talc does contain asbestos and silica. However, we’re talking about cosmetic grade talc, which has been processed and treated. Cosmetic grade talc is present in many other products besides baby powder including: crayons, chalk, deodorants, soap, paper and paint.
Asbestos exposure has been linked to all sorts of health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. All of these conditions are very serious and can lead to permanent damage, even resulting in death. Asbestosis causes scarring in the lungs, and mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the linings of the lungs, heart and abdomen. It is a very vigorous form of cancer, and the prognosis is often poor, as diagnosis does not occur until symptoms are present. By this time, the disease has already advanced.
While there may not be any regulation in place on talc and baby powder at the moment, it is better to be safe than sorry. Avoid talcum products and you may be preventing cancer.