Talcum Powder: The Hidden Dangers

Most of the times, it’s not really needed at all! So why not stop? :)

You’ve probably used it, or had it sprinkled on you at some time in your life. It’s processed from a soft mineral compound of magnesium silicate, and is called talcum powder or just talc.

Talcum dusting powder is commonly used to reduce rashes and diaper irritation in babies and infants. But this practice is dangerous. It can result in the inhalation of significant amounts of powder, causing acute or chronic lung irritation, known as talcosis. However, this risk is readily avoidable as cornstarch powder is a safe and reliable alternative.

Manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, and widely distributed by Osco and Walgreens, besides other drug stores, women have been persuaded by advertisements to dust themselves with talcum powder to mask alleged genital odors. Not surprisingly, the powder has become a symbol of freshness and cleanliness for over five decades.

The first warning of the dangers of genital talc came in a 1971 report on the identification of talc particles in ovarian cancers, a finding sharply contested by Dr. G.Y. Hildick-Smith, Johnson & Johnson’s medical director. However, a subsequent publication in the prestigious The Lancet warned that “The potentially harmful effects of talc . . . in the ovary . . . should not be ignored.”

This warning was confirmed in a 1992 publication in Obstetrics & Gynecology which reported that a woman’s frequent talc use on her genitals increased her risk of ovarian cancer by threefold. The talc in question was simple brand or generic ‘baby powder.’

Subsequent to the 1992 report, at least a dozen other major science articles documenting the link between talc and ovarian cancer appeared in leading medical journals such as Cancer, The Lancet, and Oncology. The capstone of this research case against talc came in 2003 when the journal Anticancer Research published a ‘meta-analysis,’ or large scale review, of 16 previous published studies involving 11,933 women; a 33 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer was confirmed.

Click Samuel S. Epstein: Talcum Powder: The Hidden Dangers to read the full article.

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