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