Dangers of baby powder

Written by laurie rappeport
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Dangers of baby powder
Baby powder that contains talc can contribute to health problems. (IT Stock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Sweet-smelling talcum baby powder was a staple in many nurseries and among women's hygiene products for several decades until studies began to surface questioning the powder's safety. Researchers suspect that the active ingredient of talcum powder, talc, can cause health problems among children and adults alike. Citizens' action groups have submitted Citizen's Petitions to the Federal Drug Administration requesting that they take action to warn consumers about the dangers of talcum-based baby powders.

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About Talcum Powder

Talc is a mineral. After mining talc rocks, manufacturers process the rocks by crushing, drying and milling them The resulting powder retains trace minerals whose chemical composition resembles asbestos. The main ingredient of many medicated powers, including many baby powders, is talc. Talc absorbs odours and allows manufacturers to perfume the baby powder, resulting in enticing baby powders.

Women and Baby Powder

Studies reported in articles in AntiCancer Research, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Cancer, The Lancet, and Oncology journals indicate that links were found between a woman's frequent use of talc-based powders as a genital powder and ovarian cancer. Some women apply baby powder directly to their genitals while others receive exposure to talcum powder through tampons, sanitary pads and diaphragms that have dustings of talc. A 1992 study by Harlow, Cramer and Bell determined that women with ovarian cancer have used talcum powder in their genital area more frequently than healthy women.

Talcum Poisoning

Swallowing or breathing in talcum powder can cause talcum-powder poisoning. Symptoms of talcum powder poisoning may include coughing, eye irritation, diarrhoea, vomiting, collapse, convulsions, difficulty breathing, respiratory failure, blisters, rash and fever. if you have reason to suspect that someone has breathed in or swallowed talcum powder, immediately move the person to fresh air and then take the person to the local hospital emergency room. Treatment may include a breathing tube, IV fluids, oxygen or medications.

Talcum Powder and Lungs

The University of Pennsylvania reports that "serious lung damage and cancer have also been reported in workers who have breathed in talcum powder many times over long periods of time." The The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Toxicology Program found mixed evidence of a risk of cancer which may originate from talcum-based baby-powder. The American Cancer Society suggests that until a full study emerges that can determine the possibility of carcinogenics in talcum-based baby powder, baby powder users should use cornstarch-based baby powders which show no signs of cancer-causing agents.

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