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Talcum Powder Caution

Talcum Powder Caution

Talcum powder, which contains the mineral talc, is potentially harmful to infants, and it should never be used as a powder during diaper changing. Inhaled talcum powder causes serious breathing complications. Talcum powder is toxic if swallowed. How well a baby recovers after exposure to talcum powder depends on how quickly the baby is treated and how much powder was inhaled.

Symptoms of Poisoning
Inhaling talcum powder can cause twitching, fever, cough, breathing problems, convulsions, and collapse.

What to Do
Call the regional Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) immediately if your baby may have inhaled or swallowed talcum powder. If the powder gets on the baby’s skin, wash it off immediately.

At the Hospital
If your baby has inhaled the powder and is showing any of these symptoms of poisoning, the doctor may administer oxygen and take a chest x-ray. In the worst cases, the doctor may need to insert a breathing tube, or put your baby in the intensive care unit in a tent filled with mist.

Talcum Powder and Cancer
Another concern about talcum powder is its association with ovarian cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, Studies of personal use of talcum powder have yielded inconsistent results, although there is some suggestion of an increase in ovarian cancer risk. No other forms of cancer appear to be associated with the use of talcum powder.

However, only a very small minority of women who have used talcum powder will ever develop ovarian cancer. And it is impossible to say to what extend talc use had contributed to these cases.

Until additional information is available about the safety of talc use, people who use powder may wish to consider avoiding these products or substituting cornstarch-based powders that contain no talc.

Read Annie’s homemade formula for talcum-free baby powder.

Give us your alternatives to talcum powder!

Read more: Babies, Beauty, Family, Skin Care, , , ,

Adapted from Deadly Daffodils, Toxic Caterpillars by Christopher P. Holstege, M.D. and Carol Turkington (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2006)

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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12:06AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013


9:45AM PDT on Sep 11, 2012


8:12AM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

Interesting and noted

5:43AM PDT on Apr 26, 2012

Thanks for the article.

8:12AM PST on Dec 29, 2011

it is also not good to use on our older folks because of the breathing problems, infections, and if cakes up it causes horrible sore areas.

4:19PM PST on Dec 13, 2011

Thanks for the advice.

2:27PM PDT on Jul 23, 2010

Talc is hell on your lungs! Give up talc and use cornstarch instead.

8:54AM PDT on Jun 11, 2010

In 1965, I had my own experience with talcum powder. I had read a magazine article, which recommended that women sprinkle in iside their panties, for "freshness". I did. I ended up with a urinary tract infection. The Medic at the base dispensary told me that the talcum powder caused it. I quit using it, and I never had that problem again. It smells nice, but how can it be good for babies?

4:17AM PDT on Apr 26, 2010

I think that people over react too much!! Powder was not meant to inhale! I have used it for years after bathing because I love the smell and it feels great after towel drying. Used in moderation, like anything else, will not cause any problems. My mother used it on me and my siblings and she lived to be 90 years old! This is just another way to make people panic for no reason. If you look at the literature on ovarian cancer, you will see that it has not been proven that talcum powder is a cause for concern. The findings are inconclusive! Don't believe everything that you hear! The people that are proclaiming ovarian cancer are also probably the ones that eat and drink the foods and beverages that also cause cancer! Like I said, everything in moderation and with caution. There is no concrete proof!

1:45PM PDT on Mar 25, 2010

I hate to have to poiont this out to people, but isn't talcum powder a form of asbestos ? I appreciate that not all forms are dangerous, but why use this at all, any type of powder used on a damp area, can act as a grinding agent , just like ash is used to polish lenses for telescopes, the wet areas cause the powder to ball up, and behave, albeit in a smaller way, just like sand, or any polishing or abrasive agent. Why does any one use this anymore, at all. ? And when this enters lungs, you get the same result as the fine ash from volcanoes causes, and problems breathing because the result is sticky and hard to clear from any lungs, let alone the youngs it cakes together like a type of wet cement, good idea near kids, or adults, ? I think not..

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