Posted by Claudia Grazioso on August 5, 2011
Somehow over the years, that yummy baby smell has come to be associated with baby powder. And why not? It absorbs moisture, lessening the risk of diaper rash. It’s poofy, it’s soft and it smells heavenly. Could there be a product that more joyfully screams “baby?” Unfortunately, if it contains talc, that baby powder could also be shouting “Warning!”
Talc, also known as Magnesium Silicate Hydroxide, isn’t just in baby powder. It’s present in deodorants, soap, paint, paper and is sometimes used in food processing. Even worse, it’s also used in kid’s products like chalk and crayons. Of course, the manufacturers claim it’s safe. But there are some people in the medical community who would beg to differ.
Back in the 1970s, talc was found to be very closely related to asbestos. Yes, that lovely-smelling baby powder was kind of a BFF to the material workers wear HAZMAT suits to remove from old buildings. Studies started popping up linking talc to tumors in the lungs and ovaries. In 1973, the Food and Drug Administration, in response to the troubling findings in the scientific and medical communities about talc and its close connection to asbestos, drafted a resolution limiting the amount of asbestos-like fibers that could be used in cosmetics grade talc. At least it was something. At least cosmetics grade talc would be safer, if not safe. The problem is, in 1993, the National Toxicology Program found that even talc without those asbestos-like fibers caused tumors in lab animals.
While some researchers are reluctant to endorse a connection between talc and cancer, the link between talc and ovarian cancer seems to be pretty strong. Talc fibers have been found in ovarian tumors — some estimates are that they have been found in up to 75 percent of ovarian tumors. Kind of makes you rethink what you want to sprinkle in your infant’s diaper.
While the medical research community will continue to duke out the talc-cancer link for years to come, there does appear to be a more immediate threat from talc. Since it is made from finely-ground particles, it can be easily inhaled and lodge in a baby’s lungs. There have been several reported incidents of infants having life-threatening respiratory episodes after inhaling talcum powder — and, sadly, some of those have been deadly.
It seems pretty clear: Any way you shake it, dust it or poof it, talc doesn’t belong on your baby’s changing table. Or yours, for that matter.