For decades, talcum powder has been marketed as soft and soothing and safe enough for babies. But controversy surrounding its use continues to increase with every new report about potential cancer dangers. Talc particles can accumulate in skin creases and irritate and act as an abrasive.
Talc is a natural clay mineral made up of magnesium and silicon. Because it is soft, it is often used in cosmetics because it prevents caking and absorbs excess moisture. Talc is also added to some tablets and chewing gum. Talc residues are often found near asbestos, a known carcinogen, which means extra care has to be taken to avoid contamination during the mining process.
Several decades ago, there was a scare linking talcum powder use to bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohns’s disease, reports the Irish Mirror.
In 1982, Harvard professor Dr. Daniel W. Cramer and his colleagues compared 215 women with ovarian cancer and 15 healthy women who acted as a control group. They found that women who used talcum powder were had a nearly two-fold risk of contracting ovarian cancer than non-users. Women who used talc regularly on sanitary pads and on their genitals were shown to be three times more at risk.
Welsh scientists in 199l, discovered particles of talc embedded in ovarian as well as cervical cancers. In 2006, talcum powder was classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, as a potential human carcinogen if used in the female genital area. Studies have revealed that talc crystals may move up the genitourinary tract into the peritoneal cavity where the ovaries are located.
A recent report in 2016 linked a 44 percent increase in invasive ovarian cancer among African American women with the use of talc on the genitals.
Currently, baby powder labels warn to keep the product out of reach of children. Pediatricians, as well as dermatologists advise against using talcum powder on babies, who may become ill or even die after breathing talc particles, according to the Irish Mirror.