Talc Cosmetic Products May Pose a Larger Asbestos Risk Than Previously Thought

November 19, 2014 - Ongoing concerns about the dangers of talc took a frightening turn recently when it was discovered the popular body care ingredient is often contaminated with asbestos. A recent study, utilizing data from three different labs tracked asbestos-contaminated talc from its mined location to its use in body powder products and then into the lungs of women who eventually developed fatal mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is most often found in people who work in close quarters with asbestos. Reports of asbestos exposure through the use of talc body powder have been an ongoing concern, but the most common cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, usually in the workplace. Despite previous assumptions, women who have no reason to believe they have spent any time near asbestos are developing mesothelioma cancer. Talc Present in a Variety of Products In general, diagnoses of mesothelioma are on the rise. This is due in part to the mid-1900s exposure to asbestos in the workplace. It can take decades for mesothelioma to develop in those exposed and the high mid-century use of asbestos has created the current spike in problems, expected to continue through 2020. However, many of these diagnoses are being made in people not affected in the workplace. Recent studies have shown talc present in a variety of non-construction products, including body and baby powders, and cosmetics. Problems with these products are thought to occur when particles of asbestos fibers enter a person’s airway and lodge within the body. Eventually, mesothelioma develops, resulting in rapid growth of tumors in the pleura - the thin outer lining of the lungs and chest wall, the peritoneum cover of the abdominal cavity, and sometimes in the pericardium, which the sac surrounding the heart. In the past, ovarian cancers have been linked to the use of talc products, which eventually resulted in numerous lawsuits calling for the removal of the products from the market. Unfortunately, products from overseas manufacturers enter the country daily and neither the FDA, nor any other federal agency, examines them for safety. Scientists involved in the latest studies believe the problem is significant, with asbestos-contaminated products harming people from various walks of life and various regions of the country. One scientist stated he has seen a growing number of mesothelioma cases in which the only possible exposure to asbestos was talc powders. He also reported contaminated products are found in many different brands of off-the-shelf cosmetics. Despite talc containing just a small amount of asbestos, users are essentially shoving it in their faces and dispersing where the asbestos particles linger in the air they are breathing. Despite Concerns, Many Companies Still Using Talc in Consumer Products One former talc product manufacturer, Colgate-Palmolive no longer sells the talc products in North America. The company sold its Cashmere Bouquet talc business in 1995. The new owner, The Stephan Co., describes the brand as producing "fragrant body powders from imported talc…” on its website. Lawsuits against manufacturers of products using talc are expected to rise in coming years. Numerous companies are alleged to have exposed women and children to asbestos in their products without any warning. Many legal experts also believe lack of government protection is to blame. Women are not the only people affected by the tainted products. Studies show asbestos is present in many barber shop powders, leading to at least one case of a barber developing mesothelioma. Talc, the softest mineral in existence, is found in many modern products, including feminine hygiene product, dusting powders, condoms, diaphragms, medical gloves, medication, balloons, crayons, and cosmetics including blushes, eye shadows, foundations, creams, and compact face powders. The FDA has very little authority in the cosmetics industry and is working with out-of-date laws that lead to easy consumer access of unsafe products. References: Previous: Asbestos More Prevalent than Previously Thought Next: Mr. Fluffy Asbestos In Australia Causing Problems for Hundreds of Families