Cancer warning needed for talcum powder

talc-powderThe Consumers association of Penang (CAP) calls on the Ministry of Health to place a warning on cosmetics containing talc.

Talcum powder has been directly used on the skin as an effective absorbent to help deodorise and for imparting a silky touch. The primary component in talcum powder is magnesium silicate hydroxide (commonly known as talc). Talc is the main ingredient in baby powder, medicated powder, perfumed powders and designer perfumed body powder.

Talc is toxic as its particles can cause tumours in human ovaries and lungs. Talc particles are capable of moving up the reproductive system and becoming embedded in the lining of the ovary. Researchers have found talc particles in ovarian tumour and have found that women with ovarian cancer have used talcum powder in their genital more frequently than healthy women.

Latest findings from the United States suggest that women who use talcum powder are 40% more likely to get ovarian cancer. Experts from Harvard Medical School in Boston studied more than 3,000 women and found using talc merely once a week raised the risk of ovarian cancer by 36%, rising to 41% for those applying powder daily.

According to the Malaysian Cancer Registry, ovarian cancer is the third common cancer among women who are above 50 years of age and it is most prevalent among the Malays followed by Chinese and Indians. Ovarian cancer is particularly deadly because it is a silent cancer as it grows quietly and is often detected only at the final stages.

Talc is also a health risk when exposed to the lungs. Talc miners have shown higher rates of lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses from exposure to industrial grade talc which contains silica and asbestos.

Talcum powder poses a major risk as its tiny particles may easily work their way into the lungs. The puffy white cloud of powder ends up somewhere once airborne and most of the time inhaled by baby or whoever is shaking the bottle. The inhalation of powder during diaper changing sessions has led to many injuries and even death of babies. Talc may cause a baby’s airways to swell and it can cause pneumonia. Talcum powder has also been linked to causing asthma in children.

The common household hazard posed by talc is inhalation of baby powder by infants. Statistics have shown that there are several thousand infants each year that have died or become seriously ill following accidental inhalation of baby powder. Talc is used on babies because it absorbs unpleasant moisture. Dusting infants with talcum powder endangers its lungs at the prospect of inhalation. Exposing children to this carcinogen is unnecessary and dangerous.

In spite of the dangers associated with talcum powder there are numerous brands in the market and some of these brands are meant for babies.

In view of the dangers associated with talcum powder and products containing talc, CAP calls on the Ministry of Health to:

  • Place a warning on products containing talc.
  • Stop the marketing of baby powder containing talc as it is dangerous to babies.

Meanwhile consumers are advised to use powder which is made from corn or rice flour. Mothers are advised to use ointments instead of medicated powders for rashes in babies.