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What exactly is talcum?

Talc is a mineral. It is comprised of silicon, magnesium and oxygen. It is very absorptive. For years it has been marketed as product that absorbs perspiration. Talc also absorbs oil. It is one of the ingredients in dry shampoo. It is also used to prevent chafing and friction. Many people claim that talc will absorb odors.

Asbestos and talc

There are two types of talc: talc that has asbestos and talc that does not. Talc that is sold for everyday use has been asbestos free since the 1970s. Asbestos is a known carcinogen so any talc that contains asbestos can cause cancer. But does talc that does not have asbestos cause cancer? 

Cancer and talc

Some studies have shown that talc, even without asbestos, has been connected to tumor growth. Other studies show that ovarian cancer and talc may be connected and there could be an increase in risk for people who use talcum powder in the genital area. 

Talc miners and millers are often exposed also to asbestos, other minerals and radon. 

The IARC and cancer

The goal of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is to  identify causes of cancer. The IARC states emphatically that talc which contains asbestos is “carcinogenic to humans" and states that when used near the genitals talc is "possibly carcinogenic" to us.

Should talc companies warn users? 

Quite possibly. In August of this year a Los Angeles jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million to a 63-year old woman with ovarian cancer. She had used the powder since age 11. The case was made that the company should have warned this woman and other consumers of the possible risk. 

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