Is There a Link Between Baby Powder Use and Cancer?
Johnson and Johnson, the makers of many household and consumer products, including “Baby Powder” has just been slapped with a $72 Million court ruling.
The company was sued by Jacqueline Fox, of Birmingham, Alabama, as part of a broader claim with nearly 60 individuals. Ms. Fox claimed that her ovarian cancer was caused by her longstanding use of the company’s Baby Powder. She died of the disease last October, during the lawsuit, but her son Marvin Salter of Jacksonville, Florida, kept up the fight as the plaintiff and was recently awarded $1 million in punitive damages for every year of her life, and an additional $10 million for actual damages.
An epidemiologist who testified on behalf of Fox estimated that 10 percent of deaths from ovarian cancer are linked to talc use.
Baby Powder, and possibly other personal care products contain the ingredient talc, which has been in widespread use by consumers for many years. Talc is a mineral substance that is used in a wide variety of consumer products, including: cosmetics, eye shadows, baby powder and feminine hygiene products.
According to the coalition known as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, there are a few concerns regarding the use of talc: cancer, organ system toxicity and respiratory distress.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers perineal exposure to talc through the use of powder in the genital region as a possible carcinogen in women. And there is research backing the claim. In a recent study published in the medical journal Epidemiology researchers link talc use to ovarian cancer, with the greatest risk among those women who have used talc for the longest amount of time.
Other research published in the International Journal of Cancer found a statistically significant increase in ovarian cancer risk associated with the use of talc in the pelvic region. The use of talc or Baby Powder in the genital region is common. Many caregivers use the powder after changing babies’ diapers, unaware of the possible cancer, organ damage or respiratory concerns. Additionally, many feminine hygiene products contain talc; as a result many women are unwittingly using a potentially dangerous substance on a regular basis.
According to the legal news site LawFuel, Jacqueline Fox’ lawyers produced evidence of a Johnson and Johnson memo from the company’s medical consultant which stated: “anybody who denies [the] risks” between “hygenic” talc use and ovarian cancer would be publicly perceived in the same light as those who denied a link between smoking cigarettes and cancer: “Denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
In another study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Murray Finkelstein at the University of Toronto, Canada, also found an increased diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma—an aggressive cancer of the lungs and abdomen—among talc miners and millers in New York state. Dr. Finkelstein also found fibers of tremolite and anthophyllite in dust and the lungs of talc workers; these fibers are causes of mesothelioma.
While talc use is restricted in the European Union, it is still in widespread use in North America. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, infants, children, women, along with miners, millers and processors of talc are most at risk of the possible health damage linked to talc use.
Another concern about the health risks of talc use is that some talc is contaminated with asbestos, likely due to mining from areas where both talc and asbestos are found. I was surprised to find the following statement on the Food and Drug Administration’s website: “Unlike talc, however, asbestos is a known carcinogen.” After reviewing the research and evidence that has come forth from Ms. Fox’ trial, the FDA may want to rethink its claim that talc is not a known carcinogen. Evidence to the contrary is certainly piling up and certainly warrants tighter controls by the FDA.
As for Johnson and Johnson, the company calls itself “a family company,” but I’m not convinced the company warrants such a slogan. And, its website states that it is “innovating for girls and women,” which is a real slap in the face to the women who have died from ovarian cancer that may have been linked to talc use.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, is an international best-selling and 19-time published author whose works include: Weekend Wonder Detox: Quick Cleanses to Strengthen Your Body and Enhance Your Beauty.