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Asbestos in Talcum Powder

Millions of Americans have used talcum powder and other talc products as part of their daily personal hygiene routine for decades. However, studies have linked asbestos in talcum powder to mesothelioma and other types of cancer. Learn about the health risks of asbestos-contaminated talc and how Mesothelioma Hope can help if you’ve been diagnosed with talcum powder cancer.

Fact-Checked and Updated by: Jenna Tozzi, RN

Last updated:

Is There Asbestos in Talcum Powder?

A bottle of talcum powder on its side with white powder spilling out

It’s possible that talcum powder may contain asbestos. Talc and asbestos are both minerals, and they’re often found near each other when they’re mined. As a result, talc mined for commercial use may be contaminated with asbestos and dangerous to use.

Most manufacturers no longer sell talc-based products in the United States and have transitioned to powders made using cornstarch.

For example, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) stopped selling its iconic talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada in 2020 after tens of thousands of asbestos victims filed talcum powder lawsuits alleging that use of their product caused them to develop mesothelioma or ovarian cancer.

How to know if talc is asbestos-free

The best way to determine if talcum powder is asbestos-free is to read the label and look at the ingredients to see if it contains talc. If it does, there’s a chance that it may contain asbestos.

Key Facts About Talcum Powder Cancer

  • What is talc? Talc is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined from the earth and often found near asbestos deposits.
  • How does talc cause mesothelioma? Asbestos in talcum powder can cause mesothelioma when people breathe in or swallow asbestos fibers while using talc powder products.
  • What are other talcum powder cancers? Ovarian cancer and lung cancer have also been linked to asbestos in talcum powder.
  • What brands of talcum powder cause cancer? Asbestos lawsuits have linked Johnson’s® Baby Powder, Shower to Shower®, Gold Bond®, and other brands to different types of cancer.
  • What is the latest on the talcum powder lawsuit? In January 2024, J&J agreed to pay about $700 million to settle claims that it deceived consumers about the safety of its talc products.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another talcum powder cancer, our team is here to help.

Get our Free Mesothelioma Guide shipped overnight to learn about the medical, financial, and support resources we offer.

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The Link Between Talc and Mesothelioma

Talc is a soft white mineral composed of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. Manufacturers have used talc to make talcum powder, baby powder, makeup, and other consumer products for more than 100 years.

However, talc is often found near deposits of asbestos, another mineral that is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance). As early as the 1970s, consumer safety groups have sounded the alarm on asbestos in talcum powder.

Multiple studies have since shown that asbestos in talcum powder and baby powder can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer when breathed in, as well as ovarian cancer when used in the perineal (genital) area.

“Talc that has asbestos is generally accepted as being able to cause cancer if it is inhaled.”
American Cancer Society

Additionally, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), considers asbestos-contaminated talc “carcinogenic to humans.”

Health Risks of Talcum Powder

Asbestos in talcum powder has been connected to mesothelioma and several other types of cancer.

Talcum Powder & Mesothelioma Cancer

An open hand dusted with talcum powder

Consumers who have regularly used asbestos-containing talcum powder or baby powder over the years as part of their daily hygiene routine are at risk of developing mesothelioma.

During routine use of talc, microscopic asbestos fibers can be breathed in or swallowed, causing mesothelioma to develop 10-50 years later.

Those exposed to asbestos in talcum powder over a long period of time or to products with high amounts of asbestos are most at risk of talcum powder cancer.

A research study published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology in January 2023 analyzed 166 cases of individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma. In 122 of the cases, the only known source of asbestos exposure was talcum powder.

“Use of cosmetic talc is often overlooked as a source of asbestos exposure. All individuals with mesothelioma should have a comprehensive history of asbestos exposure, including cosmetic talc exposure.”
“Exposure to cosmetic talc and mesothelioma,” Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology

If you’re worried that you may have been exposed to asbestos in talcum powder, make an appointment with your doctor and tell them about your concerns. They can document your history of asbestos exposure and monitor you for symptoms of mesothelioma.

In the event that you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, our Free Doctor Match service can help you connect with top specialists in your area.

Talcum Powder & Lung Cancer

Asbestos lung cancer is directly caused by exposure to asbestos.

Consumers of asbestos-containing talcum powder are at risk of inhaling fibers that can get trapped in the lungs. Over time, these asbestos fibers can cause genetic changes that result in cancer.

Talcum Powder & Ovarian Cancer

Millions of American women have used talc-based powders as part of their daily feminine hygiene routine. Unfortunately, some studies have shown a link between talc use and ovarian cancer.

For example, a study published in the medical journal Epidemiology noted that women who used talc products in the genital area were 33% more likely to develop ovarian cancer.

The exact way that asbestos in talcum powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer is unknown. However, researchers believe that asbestos fibers traveling through the reproductive tract or the bloodstream may cause chronic inflammation of the ovarian tissues, damaging cell DNA and leading to cancerous tumors.

Talcum Powder & Testicular Cancer

Men who have used talcum powder products in their genital area to absorb sweat and prevent chafing may also have an increased risk of testicular cancer.

Exposure Risks of Asbestos in Talc Powder

While everyday people are at risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases from asbestos in talcum powder, groups exposed to raw talc in heavy doses face an increased risk.

“Inhalation of even the smallest amount of asbestos in talc can cause mesothelioma and other diseases many years after exposure.”
Environmental Working Group

Research published in the Canadian Respiratory Journal found that occupational exposure to talc particles — both asbestos-containing talc and asbestos-free talc — raises the risk of lung cancer.

Some studies focusing on talc miners show that these workers have a notably higher risk of developing lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

High-risk jobs for exposure to asbestos in talcum powder include:

  • Ceramic workers
  • Chemical technicians
  • Factory workers
  • Hairdressers and barbers
  • Paper mill workers
  • Plastics workers
  • Talc miners and millers

Additionally, workers may have exposed family members to asbestos by bringing home fibers on their hair, skin, or work clothes. This type of asbestos exposure is known as secondhand exposure or take-home exposure.

Learn more about the jobs that put people at risk of asbestos exposure and the symptoms to watch for in our Free Mesothelioma Guide — shipped to your house overnight.

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Talc Products Containing Asbestos

Lawsuits have linked various talc-based cosmetic products — including baby powders, dusting powders, body powders, and shave talc — to talcum powder cancer.

Talcum powder products that contain asbestos include:

  • Avon® Skin So Soft Satin Talc Powder
  • Cashmere Bouquet® talcum powder
  • Desert Flower® talcum powder
  • Gold Bond® Men’s Body Powder
  • Johnson’s® Baby Powder
  • Shower to Shower® absorbent body powder
  • Old Spice® talcum powder

Talcum powder asbestos can enter the air during normal use, causing consumers to unknowingly breathe in or swallow the tiny fibers. Decades later, asbestos in talc can lead to mesothelioma and other serious diseases.

Get our Free Asbestos Products Guide to see what other common household items contain asbestos.

Lawsuits for Talcum Powder Asbestos Exposure

Talcum powder manufacturers and talc suppliers have found themselves facing a flood of lawsuits over the safety of their products.

While these companies generally maintain that their talc products pose no risk to public health, they have collectively paid billions of dollars in jury verdicts and settlements over claims that the products can cause mesothelioma and other cancers.

In January 2024, J&J said it would pay about $700 million to resolve probes by 42 states investigating whether the company had deceived consumers about the safety of its talc products.

Here are some other notable talcum powder cancer settlements and verdicts:

  • J&J said it would pay $8.9 billion to settle tens of thousands of lawsuits alleging its talc products caused cancer in December 2023.
  • An Oregon jury awarded $18.5 million in March 2023 to the family of a woman who passed away after being exposed to talc supplied by Whittaker, Clark & Daniels Inc.
  • A California woman won a $52.1 million verdict in 2022 against cosmetic maker Avon and a forklift manufacturer. She said she developed mesothelioma from asbestos in Avon’s body and face powders, as well as asbestos her husband unknowingly brought home from his work at the forklift company.
  • In 2020, 22 women who claimed they developed ovarian cancer from using J&J’s baby powder and talc products were awarded $2.1 billion by a Missouri court.

Get Help for Talcum Powder Cancer

Asbestos in talcum powder placed millions of American families at risk of life-threatening cancers.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a talc powder cancer like mesothelioma, our team is here to offer hope and help.

Our Patient Advocates can connect you with medical, financial, and support resources. We’ve helped many patients access medical care and financial aid and get justice against the companies that caused them harm.

Get our Free Mesothelioma Guide to learn more about the resources we provide.

Talcum Powder and Cancer FAQs

Is talc powder dangerous?

Yes, use of talcum powder can be dangerous if it is contaminated with asbestos, a cancer-causing mineral.

Numerous studies have linked asbestos in talc to serious diseases, including aggressive cancers like mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

Does talcum powder cause cancer?

The American Cancer Society states that talc that contains asbestos “is generally accepted as being able to cause cancer if it is inhaled.”

Studies have connected asbestos in talc to a rare and aggressive cancer called mesothelioma, as well as ovarian cancer, lung cancer, and testicular cancer.

Does all talc have asbestos?

No, all talc doesn’t contain asbestos. However, because talc deposits and asbestos deposits often occur near each other in nature, it’s common for asbestos contamination to occur.

What’s the link between talc and mesothelioma?

Talcum powder and mesothelioma are related since talcum powder may be contaminated with asbestos, the only known cause of this cancer.

A study published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology looked at 166 mesothelioma cases. In more than 70% of the cases, talcum powder was the only known source of asbestos exposure.

Contact our Patient Advocates at (866) 608-8933 to access medical, financial, and supportive resources for talcum powder mesothelioma.

How does talcum powder cause ovarian cancer?

Women who have used asbestos-contaminated talcum powder as part of their daily feminine hygiene routine may be at an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

When asbestos-containing talc is applied to the genital area, researchers believe that asbestos fibers may enter the body either through the reproductive tract, bloodstream, or lymphatic system, leading to inflammation in the ovaries, DNA damage, and ultimately cancer.

The exact way that talcum powder ovarian cancer forms continues to be studied.

Jenna TozziWritten by:

Director of Patient Advocacy

Jenna Tozzi, RN, is the Director of Patient Advocacy at Mesothelioma Hope. With more than 15 years of experience as an adult and pediatric oncology nurse navigator, Jenna provides exceptional guidance and support to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. Jenna has been featured in Oncology Nursing News and is a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators & the American Nurses Association.

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References
  1. American Cancer Society. “Talcum Powder and Cancer.” Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/talcum-powder-and-cancer.html
  2. Chang CJ, Tu YK, Chen PC, Yang HY. (2017, August 31). Occupational Exposure to Talc Increases the Risk of Lung Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Occupational Cohort Studies. Can Respir J. Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29081679/
  3. CNBC. (2022, August 11). J&J to stop selling talc-based baby powder globally in 2023. Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.cnbc.com/2022/08/11/jj-to-stop-selling-talc-based-baby-powder-globally-in-2023.html
  4. CNN. “Johnson & Johnson hit with $25.75 million verdict in talc-asbestos case.” Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/24/health/johnson–johnson-talc-asbestos-verdict-california/index.html
  5. CNN. “New Jersey couple awarded $117 million in talcum powder case.” Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/06/health/talc-mesothelioma-asbestos-damages/index.html
  6. Cramer DW, Vitonis AF, Terry KL, Welch WR, Titus LJ. (2016, May 27). The Association Between Talc Use and Ovarian Cancer: A Retrospective Case-Control Study in Two US States. Epidemiology. Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26689397/
  7. King, H. (n.d.) Geology.com. “Talc: The Softest Mineral.” Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://geology.com/minerals/talc.shtml
  8. Law360. “California Woman Awarded $50 million in talc suit against Avon.” Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.law360.com/articles/1559399/calif-woman-awarded-50m-in-talc-suit-against-avon
  9. Mealey’s Asbestos. (2023, March 14). “Oregon Jury Awards $18.5M In Asbestos Case Against Talc Supplier.” Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.lexislegalnews.com/mealeys/articles/1675758/oregon-jury-awards-18-5m-in-asbestos-case-against-talc-supplier
  10. Mealey’s Asbestos. (2022, December 23). “Jury Awards $40.8M In Asbestos Case Damages, Adds $11.3M In Punitives.” Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.lexislegalnews.com/mealeys/articles/1673994/jury-awards-40-8m-in-asbestos-case-damages-adds-11-3m-in-punitives
  11. Moline J, Patel K, Frank AL. (2023, January 18). Exposure to cosmetic talc and mesothelioma. J Occup Med Toxicol. Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36653798/
  12. Reports, S. (2018, December 14). J&J knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder. Reuters. Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/johnsonandjohnson-cancer/
  13. Reuters. (2024, January 23), “J&J agrees to resolve 42 U.S. states’ talc investigations.” Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/jj-agrees-resolve-42-us-states-talc-investigations-2024-01-23/#
  14. Reuters. “J&J Baby Powder litigation takes new focus with asbestos claims.” Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-johnson-johnson-cancer-lawsuit-analys/jj-baby-powder-litigation-takes-new-focus-with-asbestos-claims-idUSKBN1HN0FR
  15. Terry, K. L., et al. (2013). “Genital Powder Use and Risk of Ovarian Cancer: A Pooled Analysis of 8,525 Cases and 9,859 Controls.” Cancer Prevention Research, 6(8), 811–821. Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.1158/1940-6207.capr-13-0037
  16. The New York Times. (2021, July 27). “Women With Cancer Awarded Billions in Baby Powder Suit.” Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/health/baby-powder-cancer.html
  17. The Telegraph. “Can talcum powder really cause cancer?” Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/can-talcum-powder-really-cause-cancer/
  18. US National Library of Medicine. “Asbestos in commercial cosmetic talcum powder as a cause of mesothelioma in women.” Retrieved February 2, 2024, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4164883/
  19. Zuckerman, D. (2019, March 6). Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer. National Center for Health Research. Retrieved February 2, 2024, from http://www.center4research.org/talcum-powder-ovarian-cancer/
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