In March of this year a California jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $24.4 million to a dying woman who says she developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in the company’s talcum powder. The jury awarded an additional $5 million to her spouse.
Baby powder’s leading manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, is facing quite a few high-profile court cases surrounding the link between their talc-based products and cancer. The company is under fire after thousands of loyal customers came forward with both ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, suggested to be a direct result of long-term use.
Parents have historically turned to baby powder as a traditional skincare regimen for newborns. However, the connection between its prominent ingredient, talc, and human health has recently come to light. Parents are now asking the question: is baby powder actually safe? We’re here to let you know the myths versus facts, so you can shop with confidence.
Considering the public has just begun to voice their concerns, you may be surprised to learn this mineral has been questioned by experts for decades. The issue has been swept under the rug because most studies produced inconclusive results, but some research still provides valid reasons for concern.
For example, The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that talc, along with cornstarch-based baby powder, can damage the lungs in both parents and infants. While this point of view doesn’t explicitly address talc’s link to cancer, it does acknowledge that those who regularly use the product run the risk of inhaling harmful particulate matter.
The inhalation of talc is exceptionally dangerous because natural talc mines were discovered to be littered with asbestos, a confirmed human carcinogen. Asbestos fibers are microscopic and can be inhaled and become lodged in the lining of internal organs for a lifetime once airborne. Although not all talc is contaminated with asbestos, it’s important to take a look at which products have tested positive, as baby powder is just one of many found on the shelves today.
As recently as last month, the FDA revealed that three of Claire’s cosmetics products have tested positive for asbestos, which had been a long-term suspicion following reports of talc flooded with asbestos in both Claire’s and Justice makeup in 2017. Following this reveal, the FDA advised anyone who had purchased any of these items to stop use altogether and Claire’s was forced to recall all three products and refund anyone who returns them. These toxic cosmetics were sold between October 2016 and March 2019 and included Claire’s very own eye shadows, compact powders, and contour palettes; further details can be found here.
Talc is most commonly found in personal care products and cosmetics, which has become an increasing concern because the United States does not require the FDA to review or approve these products. Fortunately, these recalls have inspired the agency to take action to better protect consumers against talc contaminated with asbestos, including plans to evaluate how companies are going to guarantee customers to be safe from exposure and provide more transparency on their ingredients.
The truth is baby powder isn’t actually necessary for skincare, and physicians are still advocating against its use today. Dr. David Soma, a Pediatrician with Mayo Clinic Children’s Hospital, has spoken out about the risk of harmful inhalation stating, “The talc powder is more concerning than cornstarch based powder, but the big take home message is that we don’t recommend powders.”
If you do choose to go with a safer alternative, Dr. Soma recommends to apply it with caution. He explains that consumers should keep the powder anyway from their eyes and nose, use as little as possible, and initially apply the substance to your hands in order to reduce the risk of inhalation.
By MAA Team
After writing this blog another jury awarded a woman with terminal cancer $12 million in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and Colgate.