In recent years, talcum powder has been a hot topic of discussion for both legal and medical professionals. This is due to a potential link between talcum powder usage and severe medical conditions such as cancer. But what is talcum powder? Should we avoid using it? Let’s discuss this below.
What is Talcum Powder?
Talcum powder is typically composed of just two ingredients: finely ground talc and added fragrance. Talc is a mineral found in clay that is mined from frequently occurring underground deposits. It is composed of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. As the softest known mineral, talc has been used for a wide range of applications and products, including cosmetics, deodorants, medicines, supplements, and baby powders due to its moisture-absorbing properties and silky texture.
Talcum Powder vs. Baby Powder
Baby powder is a product developed to prevent diaper rash and chafing by absorbing excess moisture and keeping the baby dry. Unfortunately, baby powder is not always made with a standard formula like talcum powder is, so it’s vital to check your ingredients list when purchasing.
Today, the most common baby powders are created with talc, cornstarch, or a blend of the two, but ingredients can vary wildly depending on the brand. While many manufacturers have begun the process of swapping from talc to cornstarch (or similar ingredients), it’s still important to note that not all brands are on board.
Should You Avoid Talcum Powder?
The most accurate answer to whether you should avoid talcum powder is maybe.
The individual talc particles that comprise talcum powder are hundreds of times lighter than particles that compose powders made from corn and other ingredients, making them much more likely to be inhaled. Inhaling talc can cause irritation, inflammation, chronic lung issues, and even suffocation in small children, so it is crucial to keep it out of the reach of little hands.
According to the American Cancer Society, talc deposits often have naturally occurring asbestos integrated throughout, which can lead to undetected asbestos contamination. This could mean that the higher inhalation risk attributable to talcum powder can also carry a higher risk of inhaling asbestos due to compromised talc mining operations.
Over the past few years, the FDA has been performing extensive testing on talc-containing cosmetics. They have found that while talc may not be a proven carcinogen, there are still asbestos-contaminated talc products actively in circulation.
This calls into question why advanced talc mining processes are still not enough to prevent asbestos exposure in talc ore. In addition, the same talc mines that produce minerals for cosmetics are often the same mines that produce minerals for talcum powders and baby powder additives. So, it stands to reason that contamination can happen more often than we know.
Safe Alternatives to Talcum Powder
Educating yourself before using products of any kind can go a long way. If you choose to go with talcum powder still, do your research to ensure that the company performs extensive, frequent testing for asbestos. However, if you just do not wish to take that risk, never fear! Here are some great safe alternatives to talcum powder:
- Pure cornstarch: soft, silky, and reasonably cost-effective
- Rice starch: a little hard to find and can sometimes cake, but safe and hypoallergenic
- Baking soda: works great but can be abrasive; we recommend blending with cornstarch
- Tapioca starch: can be pricey but works hard to absorb moisture and oil
- Arrowroot starch: if allergic to corn, this is your best alternative
- Fine oat flour: it can typically be a little coarse, so shoot for finely ground
And remember, no matter what you choose to use as an alternative to talcum powder, it’s always a good idea to avoid inhaling powders at any time.
Read more: Who Can File a Talcum Powder Lawsuit?
Have More Questions about Talc?
If you have further questions, you can learn more about the relationship between talc, asbestos, and cancer in our blog. In addition, if you would like to talk to a professional concerning your talc exposure and your legal options, sign up for a free consultation with an expert Serling & Abramson team member today.