jump to links
Q. What is talc?
A. Talc is a mineral, produced by the mining of talc rocks and
then processed by crushing, drying and milling. Processing eliminates
a number of trace minerals from the talc, but does not separate
minute fibers which are very similar to asbestos.
Q. What kinds of consumer products contain talc?
A. Talc is found in a wide variety of consumer products ranging
from home and garden pesticides to antacids. However, the products
most widely used and that pose the most serious health risks are
body powders Talc is the main ingredient in baby powder, medicated
powders, perfumed powders and designer perfumed body powders. Because
talc is resistant to moisture, it is also used by the pharmaceutical
industry to manufacture medications and is a listed ingredient
of some antacids. Talc is the principal ingredient home and garden
pesticides and flea and tick powders. Talc is used in smaller quantities
in deodorants, chalk, crayons, textiles, soap, insulating materials,
paints, asphalt filler, paper, and in food processing.
Q. Why is talc harmful?
A. Talc is closely related to the potent carcinogen asbestos.
Talc particles have been shown to cause tumors in the ovaries and
lungs of cancer victims. For the last 30 years, scientists have
closely scrutinized talc particles and found dangerous similarities
to asbestos. Responding to this evidence in 1973, the FDA drafted
a resolution that would limit the amount of asbestos-like fibers
in cosmetic grade talc. However, no ruling has ever been made and
today, cosmetic grade talc remains non-regulated by the federal
government. This inaction ignores a 1993 National Toxicology Program
report which found that cosmetic grade talc, without any asbestos-like
fibers, caused tumors in animal subjects.1 Clearly with or without
asbestos-like fibers, cosmetic grade talcum powder is a carcinogen.
Q. What kind of exposure is dangerous?
A. Talc is toxic. Talc particles cause tumors in human ovaries
and lungs. Numerous studies have shown a strong link between frequent
use of talc in the female genital area and ovarian cancer. Talc
particles are able to move through the reproductive system and
become imbedded in the lining of the ovary. Researchers have found
talc particles in ovarian tumors and have found that women with
ovarian cancer have used talcum powder in their genital area more
frequently than healthy women.2
Talc poses a health risk when exposed to the lungs. Talc miners
have shown higher rates of lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses
from exposure to industrial grade talc, which contains dangerous
silica and asbestos. The common household hazard posed by talc
is inhalation of baby powder by infants. Since the early 1980s,
records show that several thousand infants each year have died
or become seriously ill following accidental inhalation of baby
Q. What about infants?
A. Talc is used on babies because it absorbs unpleasant moisture.
Clearly, dusting with talcum powder endangers an infant's lungs
at the prospect of inhalation. Exposing children to this carcinogen
is unnecessary and dangerous.
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE:
1. Do not buy or use products containing
talc. It is especially
important that women not apply talc to underwear or sanitary pads.
2. Contact your pediatrician and/or local
hospital and find out
if they have a policy regarding talc use and infants.
3. Write to the FDA and express your concern that a proven carcinogen
has remained unregulated while millions of people are unknowingly
1.National Toxicology Program. "Toxicology and carcinogenesis
studies of talc (GAS No 14807-96-6) in F344/N rats and B6C3F, mice
(Inhalation studies)." Technical Report Series No. 421. September
2. Harlow BL, Cramer DW, Bell DA, Welch WR. "Perineal exposure to talc
and ovarian cancer risk." Obstetrics & Gynecology, 80: 19-26, 1992.
3. Hollinger MA. "Pulmonary toxicity of inhaled and intravenous talc." Toxicology
Letters, 52:121-127, 1990.
Conference on Talc
to Ban Talc
c/o University of Illinois at Chicago
of Public Health, M/C 922
2121 West Taylor Street
Chicago, IL 60612
Tel: (312) 996-2297