Talcum powder: your parents might have dusted it on your bottom when you were in infant, or you've used it to prevent chaffing while working out. Also known as talc powder or baby powder, the soft, seemingly-harmless white powder is so ubiquitous that most adults have probably come into contact with it at one point or another, and likely didn't give it much thought.
However, studies linking talcum powder use to lung problems and an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers are causing many to reconsider their use of these popular powders and other products containing talc.
What Is Talcum Powder?
Talcum powder is made from very finely ground talc, a mineral made up of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. When ground into a powder, talc is excellent at absorbing moisture and reducing friction, and is commonly used to help prevent rashes and keep skin in the more moisture-prone areas of the body clean and dry. Baby Powder and Shower to Shower—both manufactured by Johnson & Johnson—are two of the most popular body powder products made of talc.
Talcum Powder Uses and Products
Ground talc is primarily used as a body powder and was, in this capacity, marketed to women as a feminine hygiene aid used to absorb excess moisture, discourage vaginal odors, prevent chaffing, and keep the genital area clean and cool.
In addition to its use as a body powder, talcum powder can also be found in a number of consumer products, including:
- Cosmetics, such as foundation, eye shadow, and pressed and loose face powders
- Contraceptives, such as diaphragms and condoms
- Foods, when used as a separating agent and carrier for food coloring
- Prescription medications
- Surgical gloves
- Flea and tick powders
- Insulating materials
Associated Problems, Side Effects, and Risks
Talcum powder use was long considered beneficial and completely harmless—something that grandmothers recommended to grandchildren with sweaty feet. However, studies linking the use of talc-based powders to serious health conditions suggest that the popular white powder may not be as innocuous as previously thought.
Health problems associated with talcum powder use include:
- Respiratory problems. When talc particles are released into the air and subsequently breathed into the lungs, they can cause various respiratory problems and symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, fast or shallow breathing, inflammation, and chronic lung irritation. Because infants are particularly susceptible to these respiratory issues, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends the use of talcum powder for infant care.
- Reproductive issues. A woman who regularly applies talc-based powders to her genital area has an increased risk of developing reproductive cancers, such as ovarian cancer. When applied to the genital area, the talc particles can travel into the vagina and uterus, eventually reaching the ovaries. As the particles travel, they may cause serious inflammation and even scar tissue.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits
Talcum powder manufacturers insist the products are safe, but adversely-affected consumers disagree, and some even allege that manufacturers specifically hid dangers and risks associated with talc powder use from their customers.
As a result, Johnson & Johnson was named in thousands of product liability cases brought by customers who claim that using the company's talcum powder products gave them ovarian cancer. Several of these cases have already gone to court and been decided in favor of the plaintiffs, including a California case that ended in August 2017 with a record $417 million verdict.
As of October 2017, juries have ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay more than $724 million in damages to women diagnosed with ovarian cancer after decades of using the company's talcum powder for feminine hygiene.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
Did your use of talcum powder or other talc products cause adverse health effects? If so, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the product's manufacturer to seek compensation for your injuries. McGartland Law Firm can explore your legal rights and are prepared to help you fight for the financial award you need and deserve. Complete our online contact form today and we'll schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.