Talc Powder Exposure and Risks

It has long been accepted that asbestos-containing talc has deadly health consequences. Now, new evidence suggests that all types of talcum powder may be dangerous and put people at risk of developing cancer.

Written and Fact-Checked by: Mesothelioma Hope Team

Talc Powder Explained

Talc is frequently used in baby powder and cosmetic products, but it’s also used in a variety of other industries.

Talc powder, also called talcum powder, is used in many non-cosmetic products as well, including construction, plastics, rubber, coatings, pharmaceuticals, and paper, because it’s versatile, absorbs moisture, and is inexpensive.

Unfortunately, the same properties that make talc powder appealing are also what makes it dangerous. Talc powder closely resembles asbestos and may trigger diseases, just like asbestos does.

During the process of turning talc from a rock to a powder, many minerals are removed, but the small fibers that have a similar effect to asbestos aren’t. These fibers are a carcinogen, a cancer-causing agent, as they can trigger unnatural cell mutations within a person’s body.

Talc powder isn’t recognized as a deadly substance yet, but neither was asbestos until the mid-1980s. Taking talc powder off the market would be expensive and inconvenient with massive political and economic implications.

Talc powder will likely be in use for years to come and it’s possible that future generations will consider the prolific use of talc powder to be a significant health crisis, much like we view asbestos today.

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Who Was Exposed to Talc Powder?

Employees who work with talc and people who use talc powder on a regular basis are the most likely to experience its dangerous side effects.

The following occupations are at risk of cancer caused by talc powder:

Families with babies who use talc powder, as well as families of the people in occupations using talc are also at risk of being exposed to talc powder.

The asbestos crisis has proven that second-hand exposure to these types of substances can have the same devastating effects as first-hand exposure.

When handling talc powder, it’s essential to ensure ventilation is adequate and use any necessary safety equipment.

Many facilities that produce talc powder are required to have an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) available that outlines the precautions, ingredients, and what to do if an injury occurs while handling materials that contain talc.

Using masks and being in well-ventilated areas is key to being safe while using talc powder, whether for personal use or in an industrial setting. Following all precautions and using talc powder only for its intended purposes will help ensure safety.

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Health Risks of Talc Powder

Cancer researchers are actively looking into the links between talc powder and cancer. Talc powder may cause ovarian cancer, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Lung Cancer

Studies on talc powder have focused on miners and many studies suggest talc miners are at a notably higher risk of developing lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

While these studies haven’t been linked to the cosmetic forms of talc powder, miners are exposed to talc in heavy doses.

With asbestos-related cancers, miners were often the hardest hit by mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases.

Ovarian Cancer

Studies have suggested that talc powder that travels into a woman’s ovaries may cause cancer. Several studies have now been conducted, with mixed results.

Some case-controlled studies proved an increased risk of ovarian cancer in patients who used talc, but these studies relied on memory and therefore were biased.

Other studies suggested there was no increase in risk. At present, the link between talc powder and ovarian cancer is still being actively researched to find conclusive results.


Companies that make cosmetic-grade talc powder insist that their product doesn’t contain asbestos, yet people who use their products are developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Numerous lawsuits have proven the link does exist. A pattern has emerged where cosmetics companies have not adequately warned consumers about the cancer risks of their products.

Johnson & Johnson has already lost several cases against mesothelioma victims, with numerous additional cases still before the courts.

Johnson & Johnson Lawsuits

Baby-powder company Johnson & Johnson has been the subject of many lawsuits relating to their talc powder causing cancer.

While J&J claims their products do not contain asbestos, the courts have not agreed. The company has already lost several ovarian cancer lawsuits after women linked their asbestos-related diseases to their use of J&J baby powder.

Recent lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson have had significant payouts, with one judge awarding a mesothelioma victim with $117 Million after he was exposed to asbestos using Johnson & Johnson baby powder in the shower.

Meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit resulted in a $4.7 Billion verdict in favor of 22 women who developed ovarian cancer from talc powder.

Seeking Justice for Mesothelioma

If you’ve developed mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases after exposure to baby powder or talc powder, contact our Justice Support Team.

Contact us to better understand the risks of asbestos-containing products and how you may have been exposed.

Mesothelioma Hope was founded by a team of passionate health advocates to educate people about this aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelioma affects thousands of people each year. Our team works tirelessly to give hope to those impacted by mesothelioma. Learn more about operating principles and our Editorial Guidelines.

7 References
  1. American Cancer Society, “Talcum Powder and Cancer,” Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/talcum-powder-and-cancer.html Accessed on October 7, 2018.

  2. US National Library of Medicine, “Asbestos in commercial cosmetic talcum powder as a cause of mesothelioma in women,” Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4164883/ Accessed on October 7, 2018.

  3. The Telegraph, “Can talcum powder really cause cancer?” Retrieved from
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/can-talcum-powder-really-cause-cancer/ Accessed on October 7, 2018.

  4. Reuters, “J&J Baby Powder litigation takes new focus with asbestos claims,” Retrieved from
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-johnson-johnson-cancer-lawsuit-analys/jj-baby-powder-litigation-takes-new-focus-with-asbestos-claims-idUSKBN1HN0FR Accessed on October 7, 2018.

  5. CNN, “Johnson & Johnson hit with $25.75 million verdict in talc-asbestos case,” Retrieved from
    https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/24/health/johnson–johnson-talc-asbestos-verdict-california/index.html Accessed on October 7, 2018.

  6. CNN, “New Jersey couple awarded $117 million in talcum powder case,” Retrieved from
    https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/06/health/talc-mesothelioma-asbestos-damages/index.html Accessed on October 7, 2018.

  7. Mercola, “$4.7 Billion Judgment for Asbestos in Powder,” Retrieved from
    https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2018/07/31/asbestos-in-talc-powder.aspx Accessed on October 7, 2018.

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