What is the Relationship Between Baby Powder and Cancer?
No matter who you are, the chances are you’ve used baby powder at some point. This powder is not only meant for children since it smells incredible and keeps you dry.
However, recent investigations revealed that Johnson & Johnson knew about potentially toxic ingredients in its baby powder products. For this reason, many people are worried.
The minerals needed to make baby powder are found deep in the earth near asbestos, a natural mineral known for its carcinogenic features. Because of this close proximity, many people believe that baby powder also may cause cancer.
So, what are the health risks associated with these products? Does baby powder cause cancer?
What is Talcum Powder Made of?
Talc is a mineral that consists of magnesium, oxygen, and silicon. It serves as the basis for talcum powder. Talc is the softest mineral that ever existed, making it useful in many industrial products, including face powder, lipstick, eye shadow, mascara, and children’s makeup.
Talc is also the main ingredient in baby powder. The most famous brand, Johnson’s Baby Powder, is made of talcum.
Now, some brands produce talc-free makeup and cosmetics. If you want to check for talc in your baby powder, look for talcum, talc, or magnesium silicate on the back of the bottle.
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and The Risk of Cancer
For years, Johnson & Johnson has denied that its baby powder is contaminated with asbestos. Asbestos may break down into small, microscopic parts that may be breathed in. Once it is in the lungs and other body parts, asbestos may cause severe lung injuries and inflammation, leading to mesothelioma cancer.
Increased exposure to this known carcinogen can also cause laryngeal, lung, and ovarian cancer.
On average, 1 in 75 women may develop ovarian cancer throughout her life. However, unlike breast cancer or lung cancer, there is no recommended test to scan for ovarian cancer, which is why it is rarely diagnosed early. When ovarian cancer is detected in the early phases, the patient has a more than 90% chance of surviving.
Based on numerous studies and research cases involving women, experts concluded that women who have used Johnson’s Baby Powder are about 30% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer.
Since 2014, Johnson & Johnson has protected its baby powder in claims brought by women who had used their products and had ovarian cancer. However, the courts ruled in favor of a woman who died of ovarian cancer at age 62. After her cancer diagnosis, small particles of talcum were found in her body.
There is evidence that men can also suffer the consequences of using baby powder. In New Jersey, the court ruled in favor of a plaintiff after talcum powder caused lung cancer or mesothelioma. Despite the court’s decision, Johnson & Johnson continues to deny the accusations that their product contains toxic ingredients that may cause cancer.
What Does Food and Drug Administration Have to Say?
In 2010, the FDA last tested various talcum powders and found no asbestos. However, they only tested around 20 commercial products from four suppliers. According to one of the plaintiffs suing Johnson & Johnson, tests found asbestos in one of their products.
The FDA says it takes the best possible measures to detect asbestos and other harmful ingredients in cosmetics, but the marketers and manufacturers are ultimately responsible for the customer’s safety.
Should You Keep Talcum Powder Away from Babies?
Pediatricians constantly warn parents not to use talcum or any baby powder on children. The greatest risk is that a baby may inhale talc, leading to coughing and choking, or worse, respiratory illness or severe lung damage.
Several cases of babies dying from chronic respiratory diseases caused by powders have been reported since the early 1960s. The American Academy of Pediatrics took a strong position against the use of talcum powder on babies, saying it has no medicinal use or beneficial value.
Is There an Alternative?
Yes. Instead of using talcum powder to avoid inflammation or diaper rash, pediatricians suggest changing diapers more frequently. You can also use an organic oil-based ointment to prevent redness and irritation and keep your baby’s skin fresh and dry.
For adults, cornstarch is an excellent substitute. You can apply it on the skin, underarms, or other areas to prevent inflammation and chafing.
A Final Word
So, does baby powder cause cancer? There is no clear answer.
In May 2020, Johnson & Johnson began pulling its baby powder products from the market. Even though the company stated that logistics issues were behind the decision, experts believe it may have something to do with the numerous accusations regarding talc and asbestos in their baby powder.