News from CRIS: What's the Risk? Talc-Based Cosmetic Products

June 14, 2022

What is talc?

Talc, also known as talcum powder, is an insoluble clay mineral found worldwide. It is mined and processed for many products including baby powder, makeup, foods, anti-caking agents, pharmaceuticals, and more.

Does talc contain asbestos?

We find the mineral talc located with the mineral asbestos. Therefore, if mining sites are not adequately tested and established when mining talc, asbestos contamination is possible.

In 1976, the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association, now known as the Personal Care Products Council, recommended that all personal care products containing talc be tested to ensure that only asbestos-free talc is present. Testing is critical because asbestos is a known carcinogen when inhaled

While the U.S. FDA can and does issue recalls for asbestos-contaminated products, as they are banned throughout the U.S., it's the manufacturers' responsibility to ensure they are free from the carcinogen.

Does talc cause cancer?

Talcum powders containing asbestos could cause cancer or other adverse health outcomes when inhaled in significant quantities. Talc without asbestos was not found to be a carcinogen when inhaled based on a report by the U.S. EPA.

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer due to talcum powder use is unclear. Current research shows mixed results, with some studies saying there is an elevated risk (1,2,3) while other studies, taking into account potential biases, do not indicate an increased risk.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) established that asbestos-free talc is possibly carcinogenic to humans when used on the perineum.

The IARC did not find asbestos-free talc to be carcinogenic in other uses.

Should I use talc-based powder on my children? On myself?

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend using any dusting powder for infants and small children, regardless of the ingredients. This is due to the potential for infants and small children to inhale the powder leading to breathing problems unassociated with a particular ingredient.

Talc-based powders pose few health risks for adults when used according to the manufacturer's directions.


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