Recently there was a news story about a cancer victim and her use of baby powder as a possible contributor. But people have been using baby powder on their babies and themselves for years, right? Our mothers used it on all of us. So what’s the real deal – is baby powder safe?
The talc in baby powder is what causes concern for its use. Talc is a natural mineral composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. The purpose of talc is to absorb moisture. Traditionally baby powder has been used with diaper changes to prevent diaper rash. The thought was that if you absorb any lingering moisture, the baby’s bottom will stay dry and protected from creating the right environment for diaper rash.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not review products containing talc because these products are classified as cosmetic. So, the FDA only regulates the proper labeling of the product, and not the verification or safety of the product itself, like it does for over-the-counter products that list an active ingredient.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend using baby powder because of the respiratory risk that the talc poses. Talc-based powders are made of fine particles that can be inhaled, which can cause irritation in the lungs and inflammation, which can cause additional respiratory issues. Powders with the larger particle-sized cornstarch are thought to be safer, but these powders can cause similar respiratory issues if inhaled. Premature babies or babies with underlying medical issues such as asthma should avoid any baby powder. If your baby is healthy and you want to use a baby powder, apply the powder on your hands first, away from your baby. Apply the powder (avoiding the baby’s head) and wipe away any excess powder after application. If you want to avoid baby powder altogether, you can use a cream or an ointment with zinc oxide after each diaper change. These products will create a physical barrier on your baby’s bottom for protection.
There have also been suggestions concerning a possible link between talcum powder and cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the primary concern is whether individuals exposed to the talc mineral such as talc miners are at higher risk of lung cancer as a result of breathing the talc mineral in. The talc that miners are exposed to can have bits of asbestos in them, and asbestos has been linked to lung cancer. Currently, the American Cancer Society notes that no increased risk of lung cancer has been reported with consumer use of talcum powder.
There is also a concern of talcum powder use in women when applying it to the genital area. The question of ovarian cancer risk among women who use talcum powder has not been settled, because some studies have shown a small increased risk while other studies have shown none. Currently, the American Cancer Society advises that women may want to avoid or limit the use of talc-based products. Currently, there are hundreds of lawsuits being filed against Johnson and Johnson from women who claim that their use of Johnson and Johnson’s Shower to Shower increased their risk of cancer such as ovarian cancer. However, there are conflicting medical studies regarding the relationship of talc powder and ovarian cancer.
The bottom line is be cautious of your baby powder use. Avoid inhaling baby powder in order to avoid the powder settling in your lungs or your baby’s lungs. You can also use a cream or ointment with zinc oxide instead of baby powder to prevent diaper rash.
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