A new study suggests the long-term use of talcum powder may increase an individual’s risk for mesothelioma, a rare and often deadly form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure.
Asbestos can be present in raw talc when it’s mined.
According to the study’s lead author Dr. Jacqueline Moline, a professor with Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York, there’s no reliable means of removing asbestos from talc. The only way to protect the public is to test raw talc when it comes out of the mine.
To investigate the possible association between talcum powder and mesothelioma, Moline and her team gathered information on 33 mesothelioma victims who couldn’t have been exposed to asbestos any other way. All were long-term talcum powder users, applying the products daily over the course of many years.
A closer examination of six subjects revealed the presence of asbestos in their tissue.
“They all had the same type of asbestos that is seen in talc in their tissues and in their mesothelioma,” Moline told HealthDay News. “The type of asbestos we found is not the type typically seen in commercial applications. It’s the type of asbestos you’d find in talc.”
“The question is where does it come from and how rigorously has it been tested,” Moline continued. “There are some mines that don’t have any asbestos, but it’s unclear whether those are being used by different manufacturers.”
She suggested consumers who use talcum powder consider switching to cornstarch-based body powders or other talc-free alternatives.
Just last week, Johnson & Johnson announced it was recalling 33,000 bottles of Baby Powder sold in the United States after tests conducted by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration turned up “subtraces” of asbestos in the samples.
Despite the Baby Powder recall, Johnson & Johnson continues to deny that Baby Powder and other popular brands pose any cancer risk. However, last December, Reuters reported that the company’s raw talc and finished powders had, in fact, periodically tested positive for traces of asbestos since the 1970s. While the findings concerned many at Johnson & Johnson, the public and regulators were never informed.
Johnson & Johnson is currently defending thousands of talcum powder lawsuits involving ovarian cancer and mesothelioma in courts around the United States. Plaintiffs and defendants have each won their share of verdicts since cases began going to trial, while several other juries deadlocked. The company has been successful in appealing jury awards, and continues its efforts to have other talcum powder verdicts overturned.