Found in many skin and hair care products, talc – also known as talcum powder – is a mineral made up of magnesium silicate and oxygen.
It is primarily used as an ingredient in body powders to absorb moisture and eliminate friction for both adults and babies alike and is also found in powder foundation makeup. It can also be used for making paper, paint, and pharmaceuticals, and while we have been using it for seemingly forever, there are some good reasons why you may want to avoid it.
According to the American Cancer Society, some talc in its natural form may contain asbestos. Asbestos exposure has been linked to several serious diseases including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Starting in 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule, which began phasing out the use of asbestos in many building products. So while we began eliminating it in those products, we still may be applying it directly to our skin through the talc we use.
Some studies have shown an increase in ovarian cancer rates when talc is applied in and around the genital area. A look at 16 studies showed there was a 30 percent increase in ovarian cancer risk among those people using talc, but some studies have shown a much smaller risk. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) “classifies the perineal (genital) use of talc-based body powder as possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
Another study claims that using talcum powder just once a week raises the risk of womb cancer by up to 24 percent.
Is there a direct, 100 percent positive correlation between talc or talcum powder and cancer? Maybe not. But as with anything else, if there is even a small chance of an increased rate of cancer one would be well-served to try to avoid the potentially toxic ingredient. Look for products free of talc when possible and always read the labels.
Spilled Baby Powder image from BigStock