Talcum Powder – What You Won’t Read on the Label

April 26th, 2010

Keeping your baby’s bottom soft and dry shouldn’t mean exposing it to a potentially harmful and environmentally costly substance

Talcum powder is a traditional mainstay of freshness. We use it liberally on babies’ bottoms and to absorb perspiration on hot summer days and nights. A few of us are old enough to remember our mothers having special dishes of talc in the bathroom which had big inviting powder puffs to help you dust your body, and most of the bathroom floor, with the stuff.

But time marches on and the benign image of talc has taken a something of a knock.

In recent years considerable doubt has been cast on the safety of powders containing talc, particularly when used on babies. Indeed, some baby powders now include a warning on the label to keep the powder away from the child’s nose and mouth.

Potential contamination

Talc, or magnesium silicate, is made up of finely ground particles of stone. Because it originates in the ground, and is a mined product, it can be contaminated with other substances. In its raw state, for instance, talc contains asbestos.

Since the 1970s, manufacturers have removed most of the asbestos from the talc during processing, though traces may still remain in the finished product. Industrial exposure to asbestos, of course, is linked to serious lung disease, notably asbestosis, which can lead to lung cancer.

The harmful effects of talc on human tissue were first recorded in the 1930s. Although occupational exposure to talc has been shown to more than double the risk of lung cancer, everyday talc use can also be problematical. Even if it doesn’t contain asbestos, talc is still basically just finely ground particles of stone that can lodge in the lungs and never leave. Babies whose mothers smother them in talc have been shown to have a higher risk ofbreathing difficulties.

Since the early 1980s, records show that several thousand infants each year have died or become seriously ill following accidental inhalation of baby powder.

A cancer link

Some of the most worrying evidence relates to talc’s everyday use and the link with ovarian cancer. A series of studies in the late 1990s linked talc to ovarian cancer (see references), in which talc was observed in a number of ovarian and uterine tumours as well as in ovarian tissue. It has since been confirmed that talc, either placed on the perineum (or on the surface of underwear or sanitary towels), can reach the ovaries via ascent through the fallopian tubes. It is now estimated that women who frequently use talc on their genital area have three times the risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to non-users.

The talc once used in the manufacture of condoms carried a similar risk. In the 1960s the medical journal the Lancet reported the first case of a woman who had a significant amount of talc in her peritoneal (abdominal) cavity. Laboratory tests confirmed that the talc in her body matched that found on the surface of her husband’s condoms. The authors concluded that talc travelled up through the fallopian tubes and became implanted her abdomen. Talc sprinkled on diaphragms may also be implicated in such problems.

Frequent exposure

That big bottle of talcum powder or baby powder in the bathroom, however, isn’t our only exposure to talc. The fine white powder is a component of several common products, including eye-shadow, lipsticks, deodorants and soaps, in a market that is worth billions to the cosmetics industry.

It is likely that most women are using cosmetics on a daily basis that are talc-based. And of course the more we use, the greater the market demand; the greater the market demand, the more complex the problems associated with talc use become.

Article about toxic cosmetics warns about talcum powder based products

April 12th, 2010

MOST of us look and feel better when wearing make-up. But how many of us stop to think what’s actually in our foundation, mascara and lipstick, or what this potent combination is doing to our skin?

The average woman uses 12 make-up and skincare products every day, according to the Chemical Safe Skincare Campaign. This mix alone can contain up to 175 different chemicals – including some linked to cancers, hormone changes and skin irritation.

Liz Sutton, of the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN), warns: “Most modern cosmetics are complex mixtures of industrially produced synthetic chemicals. Individually these cosmetics contain very small amounts of chemical ingredients. But it’s the cumulative effect that worries us.”

But the cosmetics industry claims the chemicals are in such minute quantities they don’t pose any risk to consumer safety.

Dr Colin Flower, of the Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association, says: “Hundreds or even thousands of substances are already taken into our bodies each day when we eat and drink. The body is very good at getting rid of substances it doesn’t need.”

Still, it’s easy to check out your toiletries because manufacturers are required to list all ingredients. As Julia Mitchell, of Chemical Safe Skincare, says: “When you look at a food packet and see lots of E numbers, you know it’s not going to be that good for you. We should have the same levels of awareness when it comes to cosmetics and skincare.”

With that in mind, here are the nasties to look out for…

TALC

FOUND IN: Face powder, blusher, foundation and eye shadow.

WHY IS IT THERE? Talc is a bulking agent that soaks up skin oils.

RISK FACTOR: Some research suggests talc can be dangerous if breathed in, and in some samples it has been found to contain tetanus. In very high doses it has also been linked to ovarian cancer.

New York Times Article Points to Talcum Powder as a Risk Factor for Ovarian Cancer

April 12th, 2010

Risk Factors and Prevention

Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer in women, and the fifth leading cause of female cancer death. Each year in the United States, about 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. About 15,000 American women die each year from the disease.

Certain factors increase the risk for ovarian cancer, while other factors reduce risk. Many of the preventive factors are related to the number of times a woman ovulates during her lifetime, which is indicated by the number of menstrual periods she has. Fewer menstrual periods and ovulations appear to be associated with reduced risk for ovarian cancer.

FACTORS THAT INCREASE THE RISK FOR OVARIAN CANCER

The main risk factors for ovarian cancer are:

  • Age
  • Family history of ovarian, breast, or colorectal cancer
  • Genetic mutations
  • Obesity
  • Hormone replacement therapy use
  • Menstrual and reproductive history

Age . Ovarian cancer risk increases with age. About two-thirds of women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 55 or older. The average age for the onset of ovarian cancer is about age 63, although ovarian cancer can develop in women of all ages.

Family History . A family history of breast or ovarian cancer is one of the strongest risk factors for ovarian cancer. Women are also at high risk for ovarian cancer if they have a family history of a hereditary form of colorectal cancer.

In general, women are considered at high risk for ovarian cancer if they have:

  • A first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with ovarian cancer at any age. The risk increases with the number of affected first-degree relatives.
  • A first-degree relative (or two second-degree relatives on the same side) with early onset breast cancer (occurring before age 50)
  • A family member with both breast and ovarian cancer
  • A family history of male breast cancer
  • A family history of hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer
  • Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry

When a woman describes her family history to her doctor, she should include the history of cancer in women on both the mother’s and the father’s side. Both are significant.

Genetic Mutations . The main genetic mutations associated with increased ovarian cancer risk are:

  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Inherited mutations in the genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase the risk for ovarian and breast cancers. While these mutations are more common among women of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, they are not restricted to this population and can occur in women of any ethnicity, including women of Asian and African descent. Women with a BRCA1 mutation have about a 40% lifetime risk for ovarian cancer. Women with a BRCA2 mutation have about a 10 – 20% lifetime risk for ovarian cancer. (By contrast, the lifetime ovarian cancer risk for women in the general public is about 1.4%.)
  • HNPCC. Women who have genetic mutations associated with hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) have about a 12% lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer

Obesity . Many studies have found an association between obesity and increased risk for ovarian cancer.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Long-term use (more than 5 years) of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may increase the risk of developing and dying from ovarian cancer. The risk appears to be particularly significant for women who take estrogen-only HRT. The risk is less clear for combination estrogen-progestin HRT. For women who take HRT, those who have a uterus (have not had a hysterectomy) are given combination HRT because progestin helps protect against the development of uterine cancer.

Menstrual and Reproductive History . Women are at increased risk for ovarian cancer if they began menstruating at an early age (before age 12), have not had any children, had their first child after age 30, or experienced early menopause (before age 50).

Risk Factors with Less Conclusive Evidence . Dietary fats have been under scrutiny for some time as possibly putting some women at higher risk for ovarian cancer. While some reviews have reported an association between a high intake in animal fats and a greater risk, other studies have found no correlation between fat intake and increased risk for ovarian cancer.

Some older studies indicated that use of the fertility drug clomiphene (Clomid) could increase the risk for ovarian cancer. However, infertility itself is a risk factor for ovarian cancer, so it is not definite whether fertility drugs play an additional role in affecting risk. More recent studies suggest that fertility drugs do not increase ovarian cancer risk.

There is inconclusive evidence as to whether environmental factors increase the risk for ovarian cancer. Possible carcinogens studied have included radiation exposure, talcum powder, and asbestos.

FACTORS THAT REDUCE THE RISK FOR OVARIAN CANCER

In general, factors or behaviors that limit stimulation of the ovaries or inhibit ovulation appear to be protective. These preventive factors include:

  • Oral contraceptive use
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Tubal ligation and hysterectomy

Oral Contraceptives . Birth control pills definitely reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Studies suggest that routine use of birth control pills that contain the female hormones estrogen and progestin, even low-dose forms, reduces a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by about 50% when compared to women who have never taken oral contraceptives. The longer a woman takes oral contraceptives the greater the protection and the longer protection lasts after stopping oral contraceptives. However, birth control pills are not safe or appropriate for all women.

Pregnancy and Childbirth . The more times a woman gives birth, the less likely she is to develop ovarian cancer. Breast-feeding for a year or more may also decrease ovarian cancer risk.

Tubal Ligation and Hysterectomy . Tubal ligation, a method of sterilization that ties off the fallopian tubes, has been associated with a decreased risk for ovarian cancer when it is performed after a women has completed childbearing. Similarly, hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus, is also associated with decreased risk. However, these procedures should not be performed solely for ovarian cancer risk reduction.

Preventive Factors with Less Conclusive Evidence . Some studies, but not all, have suggested that tea consumption is associated with reduced risk of ovarian cancer.

PREVENTIVE STRATEGIES FOR HIGH-RISK WOMEN

Women with a strong family history of ovarian cancer may wish to discuss these preventive strategies with their doctors.

Genetic Counseling and Screening for BRCA Genes . The latest guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend BRCA testing for women at high risk for ovarian cancer. The USPSTF does not recommend routine genetic counseling or testing for BRCA genes in low-risk women (no family history of BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations).

Screening with Ultrasound or Blood Tests . Screening high risk women has not been found to be effective and is not recommended:

  • Ultrasound is not helpful for identifying early-stage ovarian cancer in high-risk women. In addition, ultrasound does not provide enough specific information to reliably determine which abnormal masses are cancerous or noncancerous.
  • The CA-125 blood test is not approved for screening in the general population.

Removal of Ovaries (Oophorectomy). Surgical removal of the ovaries, called oophorectomy, significantly reduces the risk for ovarian cancer. When it is used to specifically prevent ovarian cancer in high-risk women, the procedure is called a prophylactic oophorectomy. Prophylactic oophorectomy is approximately 95% protective against ovarian cancer. It is sometimes recommended for women at high risk for ovarian cancer. These women generally have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation, or have two or more first-degree relatives who have had ovarian cancer.

Bilateral oophorectomy is the removal of both ovaries. Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is the removal of both fallopian tubes plus both ovaries. Several recent studies indicate that salpingo-oophorectomy is very effective in reducing risk for ovarian cancer in women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.

Even after oophorectomy, women in high-risk groups for ovarian cancer still have a risk for the development of cancer in the peritoneum (the sac inside the abdomen that holds the intestines, uterus, and ovaries).

Premenopausal women should be aware that oophorectomy causes immediate menopause, which poses a risk for several health problems, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and reduction in muscle tone. Estrogen replacement, given for a period of time, can help offset these problems. Women who have a bilateral oophorectomy and do not receive hormone replacement therapy may experience more severe hot flashes than women who naturally enter menopause.

Are your cosmetics or feminine hygiene products killing you?

April 12th, 2010

Cosmetic talcum powder, which is made up of more than 90 per cent mineral talc, is used in a range of beauty products.

These include eyeshadows, baby powders and feminine hygiene products. Talc is favoured for its ability to help a product stick to the skin and for its translucency.


The U.S. FDA consider cosmetic-grade talc to be safe, but in 1993 the National Toxicology Programme (NTP) in Britain found that rats exposed to cosmetic-grade talc via inhalation developed a range of inflammatory lung disorders, including cancer of the lungs and rare adrenal cancers.


In addition, eight studies have indicated a 30 to 60 per cent increase in the risk of developing ovarian cancer in women using talc-based body powder in the genital region.


The IARC has concluded that using talc-based body powder in this region is possibly carcinogenic to humans.

11 Baby Powders Contain Deadly Substance

April 12th, 2010

The Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) confirmed Thursday that it had detected asbestos in baby talcum powder.

The KFDA, said 11 products including “Nuke Baby Powder” produced by Boryeong, one from the nation’s largest baby goods producers, were found to be contaminated with asbestos ? presumably from the manufacturing process. It banned the sales of the respective products and called for a halt of the use of talc in others.

Asbestos is known to cause respiratory diseases such as asbestosis and lung cancer, and talc had long been though to be contaminated with it. EU states and the United States have ordered manufacturers to refine talc thoroughly to remove all asbestos since 2005 and 2006 respectively.

In Korea, the use of asbestos is regulated at construction sites and manufacturing plants, but the use of talc had remained unregulated until local broadcaster KBS requested the authorities to check on the product for one of its investigative programs last month.

The KFDA admitted to having been lax on catching up with global health trends. “We were not aware of it for a long time,” an agency official said. Manufacturers of the products also said that they were not given any guidelines on the use of talc and that they were not aware of global issues.

However, tens of thousands of mothers who have been using such baby goods to dry the skin of their babies were furious.

“Never foul food and children’s products! Don’t they know babies are much more sensitive and vulnerable than adults?” the angry mother of an eight-month-old baby, Cho, said. “Don’t the manufacturers have children?”

A mother of a two-year-old girl, Chung sun-ae, also said the news worried her because baby powder is one of the most used items during the summer, when babies sweat a lot. “This is how we lose trust in the government,” she said.

The KFDA said there has not yet been a report of possible cancer or other health problems from using talcum powder that could contain a small amount of asbestos.

“Powder spreads into the air and the actual amount of asbestos would be very small,” a KFDA official reportedly said. The organization consulted the Journal of Toxicology and Public Health Environmental Mutagens and Carcinogens regarding possible prevalence.

Considering that it takes more than a decade for asbestos to affect the human body, it is too soon to conclude the talc used was safe, civic groups noted. Rep. Hong Hee-deok of the Democratic Labor Party also said, “Japan made it an issue more than 10 years ago. The government should investigate all products containing talc and other asbestos-related materials.”

Some worry whether talc in cosmetic powders for adults also contain asbestos. “We cannot rule out the possibility,” the KFDA said, adding that it has launched an investigation into all products on the market.

Talcum Based Baby Powder Can Cause Cancer in Women

April 12th, 2010
Baby Powder
ARTICLE TOOLS:
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.

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.

Disposable Dishware Poses Threat, May Cause Cancer

April 12th, 2010

An expert in food packaging has asserted that disposable containers are ‘cancer in boxes’. Dong Jinshi, the Vice-president of the Hong Kong-based International Food Packaging Association confirmed that almost half of the disposable containers are not safe as they bear chemicals which can result into cancer.

It has been reported that the condition in the other cities are better like Beijing, which has accounted for only 30 percent of the disposable dishware to be substandard. The statements have been issues after the results were confirmed by a nine-year research project and other secondary data made available by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

According to a latest report released by IFPA, the numbers of disposable food boxes used by China in a year are 15 billion which are either made of paper pulp, foam or plastic. An investigation was done in two of the famous restaurants – the Laobian and the Dong Laishun restaurant, the samples collected were send to Beijing Center for Physical and Chemical Analysis and the tests conducted, confirmed that the disposable dish ware had enough amount of traces of talcum powder and ceresin wax posing a threat of cancer.

Dong and his team have filed a lawsuit Haidian district people’s court against the two food restaurants. He said, “This will be the first case in which the newly issued Food Safety Law will come into play in consumer rights protection”.

Talcum Powder Lawsuit Hotline – 1 (866) 952-1422

Attorney R. Allen Smith, Jr., of The Talc Litigation Group, filed the very first talcum ovarian cancer lawsuit on December 7, 2009. This talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit seeks damages against several talcum powder mining companies, refiners, manufacturers and product distributors for continuing to manufacture, market, and sell a product that has been medically proven to cause cancers such as ovarian cancer. Talc Litigation Group offers a free talcum powder cancer case review and ovarian cancer screenings in all 50 states.

What women need to know about ovarian cancer and talcum powder

April 4th, 2010

Ovarian Cancer

Cases per year: 2,500
Deaths: 1,700

Symptoms: Persistent and/or vague abdominal discomfort such as lower abdominal or pelvic pressure, pain, bloating or swelling, change in bowel habits, feeling full after a light meal, indigestion, flatulence, upset stomach, a feeling that bowel has not emptied, nausea, fatigue, lower back pain, leg pain, frequent or urgent urination, abnormal vaginal bleeding, menstrual disorders, pain during intercourse.

Screening: None.

Risk factors: Personal or family history of ovarian, breast, colon, uterine or pancreatic cancers, use of hormone replacement therapy (especially estrogen-only therapy), age over 50, never having been pregnant. Other possible risk factors being studied include the use of fertility drugs, certain types of diet, smoking, the use of talcum powder on the genitals, and a combination of early menstruation and late menopause.

Treatment: May include one or more of the following: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation.

Latest research: New drugs are expected to emerge from research into the genes responsible for familial ovarian cancer. In the United States and United Kingdom, research is underway into more effective methods of screening for the disease, including transvaginal ultrasounds, CA 125 testing and pelvic examination.

Talcum Powder Can Provoke Deadly Ovarian Cancer

April 2nd, 2010
Talcum Powder Can Provoke Deadly Ovarian Cancer

CHICAGO, Illinois, May 16, 2008 (ENS) – What could be more benign than body powder, right? Some of Chicago’s most highly placed doctors would say, wrong. They are part of a coaltion of public health experts, medical doctors and consumers organizations that is petitioning the federal goverment for warning labels on cosmetic talcum powder products used by many women as part of their personal care regime – a warning that frequent use is linked to ovarian cancer.

The petition addresses Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt, and Commissioner of Food and Drugs Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D., a former director of the National Cancer Institute.

A talcum powder box is a common sight. (Photo credit unknown)

The group seeks labels with a warning such as, “Frequent application of talcum powder in the female genital area substantially increases the risk of ovarian cancer,” on all talc products.

The petitioners also seek a public hearing at which evidence can be presented that the genital application of talc can result in its translocation to the ovaries.

Ovarian cancer is known as particularly deadly because it is a silent cancer that shows few symptoms until it is well advanced.

Prevention is as easy as discontinuing the use of talcum powder, says lead petitioner Dr. Samuel Epstein, who chairs the Cancer Prevention Coalition, based in Chicago.

“As Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, former director of the National Cancer Institute, is aware,” said Dr. Epstein in a statement today, “the mortality of ovarian cancer for women over the age of 65, has escalated dramatically since 1975, by 13% for white and 47% for black women.

“There are about 15,300 deaths from ovarian cancer each year,” he said. “This makes it the fourth most common fatal cancer in women after colon, breast and lung.”

Talcum powder might be used after the bath and before dressing. (Photo of a woodblock print by Hashiguchi Goyo, 1920)

These figures are found in the National Cancer Institute’s own SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 2005, posted three years after publication, in 2008.

Dr. Epstein suggests substituting “cornstarch, a safe organic carbohydrate, for talcum powder products.”

Others, even women who have had a tubal ligation or hysterectomy, either of which prevents the transfer of talc from the perineum to the ovary, would not be affected by talc application, scientists have confirmed.

One of the studies cited by the petitioners even suggests that women may be dying from exposure to talc on condoms.

“Possible morbidity in women from talc on condoms,” C.S. Kasper and P.J. Chandler Jr. is the title of a letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association back in March 1995.

The term talc covers a wide range of natural rocks and minerals, most of which are magnesium silicates. Talc is characterized by softness, hydrophobic surface properties, chemical inertness and a slippery or soapy feeling.

The Citizen Petition is submitted on behalf of:

  • Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition, and Professor emeritus Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health;
  • Peter Orris, M.D., Professor and Chief of Service, University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center;
  • Quentin Young, M.D., Chairman, Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, Chicago;
  • Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D., International Association for Humanitarian Medicine, Scientific Advisor to the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, Toronto, and the International Science Oversight Board of the Organic Consumers Association, Washington, D.C.; and
  • Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association.

This is the second petition application from Dr. Epstein and the Cancer Prevention Coalition on the issue of the health risks of talc. The first, submitted in November 1994, did not succeed.

Still, Epstein says the scientific basis of the 1994 Petition has been admitted by the industry. In an August 12, 1982, article in the New York Times, Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer and retailer of talc dusting powder, stated it was aware of a publication which concluded that frequent genital application of talc was responsible for a three-fold increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Vintage powder box (Photo credit unknown)

The petition is supported by such heavywieghts as Peter Orris, M.D., Director of Health Hazard Evaluation, Cook County Hospital, and Professor of Medicine, University of Illinois Medical School, Chicago.

The petitioners point to an analysis of 16 pooled studies that confirmed a statistically significant 33 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer associated with the perineal use of talc.

Yet another report, this one by 19 scientists in eight nations under the auspices of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, concluded that there is a 30-60 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer following the perineal application of talc. This risk has been confirmed in two other research reports cited by the petitioners.

Commercial talc properties can be identified by their chemistry and mineralogy. Not all deposits are suited for all applications.

Some commercial talc may be harder than cosmetic talc because of the presence of impurities and associated minerals such as dolomite, calcite, tremolite and quartz.

Talc is a mineral that may be dangerous for another reason – asbestos, although this is not the subject of the petition. The federal Agency for Toxic Substances says, “Tremolite asbestos may occur in deposits of chrysotile, vermiculite, and talc.”

Another source suggests the possibility that some commercial talc products may contain asbestos.

“Some commercial talc may be harder because of the presence of impurities and associated minerals such as dolomite, calcite, tremolite and quartz,” says talc producer Specialty Minerals Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Minerals Technologies Inc.

Talc is used commercially in the automobile and appliance industries. Its resistance to heat, electricity and acids make it an ideal surface for lab counter tops and electrical switchboards. It is also a filler material for paints, rubber and insecticides.

Talc Producers Failed to Note Cancer Link, S.D. lawsuit says

April 1st, 2010

A Sioux Falls woman is accusing Johnson and Johnson and two mining companies of failing for decades to warn consumers about a link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder.

Deane Berg, 52, applied talc-based body powder to her perineum each day after showering from 1975 to 2007, she says in a federal lawsuit filed last week. She contracted ovarian cancer in 2006.

Berg maintains that talc caused her cancer and that the companies selling the mineral knew there was a risk but failed to warn the public.

“I feel like women have been kept in the dark about a known hazard,” said R. Allen Smith, Berg’s lawyer. “It’s the classic definition of why we need product liability lawsuits.”

Some studies have associated the regular use of talc in the genital area to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. The most recent came in 2008, when a study from Harvard University epidemiologist Margaret Gates suggested women who used the product once a week might increase their risk of contracting the disease by 36 percent. For daily users, the risk jumped by 41 percent.

“While the findings aren’t considered fact just yet by the American Cancer Society, studies do cause some concern,” said Charlotte Hofer, South Dakota’s American Cancer Society representative.

Berg and her lawyers are convinced there is a link. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in South Dakota, cites studies about a possible link from as long ago as 1982. While government health agencies in countries such as Great Britain have noted the possible risk, the topic has flown under the radar in the U.S., Smith said.