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Why Is Everyone Talking About The Dangers of Talc?

For more than a century, generations of parents have used talc or baby powder in their battle against diaper rash. But because of all the recent headlines about the dangers of talc and the link to cancer and other illnesses, many parents are wondering if it’s safe to use on their little ones. While the use of baby powder does carry a potential health risk for your baby, pediatricians are only advising that parents be cautious during application.

The biggest concern is the potential damage that could be caused if the talc is inhaled. The director of pediatrics at Syosset Hospital in New York, Joel Kahan, M.D., says that “people who are using large amounts of baby powder, particularly around the baby’s face, run the risk of the child inhaling this very fine particulate matter into their lungs. If there’s a big enough load, it can really be harmful to the child.”[1]

Due to the composition similarities, talc is commonly contaminated with asbestos fibers. Asbestos and talc deposits are both mined underground and usually found together. This means that cross contamination is very likely. The International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) has confirmed the link between asbestos exposure and cancer. Asbestos has been identified to cause four types of cancers:

  • Ovarian
  • Laryngeal
  • Lung
  • Mesothelioma ( cancer in the lining of the lungs and abdomen).[2]

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also warned parents that inhalation could lead to talc pneumoconiosis, which has lead to several infant fatalities.

To avoid the dangers of talc, it is recommended to rather use oil-based lotions or creams. If you prefer to use powder, then cornstarch is a much safer option. The particles are larger than those in talc powders, reducing the threat to the airway. Either of these products will present less of a health risk while successfully keeping your baby dry.


[1] https://www.parents.com/baby/health/is-baby-powder-safe/

[2] http://www.asbestos.com/featured-stories/talc-dangers/

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