Health hazards of talcum powder

  • By Sahana Rajan

Talcum powder is manufactured from magnesium, silicon, and oxygen; a compound affectionately called talc. It can soak moisture comfortably. This reduces friction and avoids rashes on the skin.

How can talcum powder cause cancer?Widely used in baby powders, perfumed powders, designer-created powders, and other cosmetic products, it has been observed that a proportion of talc naturally contains asbestos. This component tends to cause cancer when inhaled or present in a body part like vagina. Talc is also present in small quantity in chalk, deodorants, and soaps.

Talcum Powder and Lung Cancer :

Studies involving mineworkers have concluded that those working in talc mining quarries are at a greater risk of getting lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses than those working in other mine industries. While talc is generally purified in powders today, there is high suspicion about the quantity of asbestos and other minerals present in natural talc. There have also been reports of infants experiencing fatal breathing issues due to inhalation of excessive talcum powder. Since the talc units are minute in size, they can enter your windpipe and trigger an unhealthy reaction. This can result in pneumonia, and more severely, chronic lung disease and cancer. Moreover, even dogs seem to be affected negatively due to the talc present in their flea powder.

In 2003, a data analysis which gathered conclusions from over 15 studies, inferred that there is a 30% amplified risk in women who use talcum powder.

Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer :

Women often apply talcum powder in genital areas to prevent odor and also on their inner thighs to avoid rashes. The suspicion of talcum powder leading to ovarian cancer arose in 1971 when talc particles were found in a set of cases of ovarian cancer. In 1992, this was reinforced in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology which declared that the risk of ovarian cancer in women using talcum powder was three times more than in those who didn't use it. The talc particles are often carried to the ovary via condoms, sanitary pads, or diaphragms which transport it into the vagina.

Solution :

While government ministries related to health and administration are passing laws for production of cosmetic and beauty items without the use of asbestos, their implementation is not strong.

Alternatives to Talcum Powder : In case you are worried about getting rashes, you can use corn flour which is also well-known for its moisture-absorption properties. There are also powders in the market which do not use talc and use substitutes like corn flour or rice powder.