Talc-based powders have filled the shelves of convenience stores for years. For generations, parents have depended on these products to prevent infants and children from developing dry skin or rashes. However, what was once deemed reliable is now being questioned after a major international brand was accused of its products causing not only ovarian cancer, but mesothelioma, an uncommon cancer directly linked to asbestos exposure.
Concerns have continued to rise as certain children’s products have made the news time and time again for talc contaminated with asbestos. In light of National Cancer Prevention Month this February, it’s important to bring attention to this issue and offer parents the chance to consider other options.
One of the first headlines surrounding toxic talcum powder occurred when 28 boxes of crayons and 21 crime scene fingerprint kits tested positive for asbestos in 2015. The Scientific Analytical Institute found that all contaminated products were imported from China and marketed with popular brands and characters, such as Mickey Mouse. Parents were shocked, and rightfully so. Using crayons to color is a common pastime for children, with Crayola suggesting one child will go through well over 700 crayons by the age of 10.
While the source of asbestos within these products is still under debate, researchers have pinpointed talc, an additive used in both the crayons and fingerprint powder that has a unique history surrounding asbestos. Regardless of how small the amount, asbestos is only considered safe when left untarnished due to its fragile nature. Once these fibers are moved or worn, they become loose and airborne, which allows for them to be inhaled and lodged in the lining of major internal organs.
While the risk of airborne fibers remains low with items like crayons, unfortunately, the scandals surrounding talcum powder go even deeper. December of 2017, the popular retail store, Claire’s, was under fire for selling contaminated makeup kits meant for young teens. Headlines broke after a Rhode Island mother became suspicious of her daughter’s sparkly makeup set and decided to send it in for official testing.
In response to her request, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) tested 15 different makeup products, discovering that three of four talc-based products from Claire’s contained high levels of asbestos. Although the retailer has attempted to refute the claim, another popular teen store, Justice, was guilty of selling toxic talc-based makeup in 2017, further encouraging parents to keep an eye on cheap costume makeup.
Protecting Our Children
Parents are now left to question whether talc-based baby powder is safe for their children after consumers around the globe have shared stories explaining their diagnoses have been a direct result of using Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products. With the worldwide debate heating up, it’s important to research what the experts have to say on the matter.
Despite verdicts in favor of J&J’s products, the American Academy of Pediatrics has been more than clear stating, “Do not use baby or talcum powders on the baby. If inhaled, talcum-containing powders can cause severe lung damage and breathing problems in babies.”
Even more shocking, pediatric research from the official journal of the AAP covered the dangers of talcum powder as early as 1969, suggesting the toxin may lead to chronic lung diseases and, in the some cases, death. In fact, pediatricians advise against all powders including the common alternative, starch, recommending diaper creams and ointments in their place.
A leading pediatrician, Dr. David Soma with the Mayo Clinic’s Children’s Hospital, voiced his opinion, emphasizing, “The talc powder is more concerning than cornstarch based powder, but the big take home message is that we don’t recommend powders.” He then went on to state, “There are a lot of things that are used out of a matter of tradition, or the fact it seems to work for specific children. “I’m not sure if it will get phased out or not, until we know more about the details of other powders and creams and what works best for skin conditions — I think it will stick around for a while.”
Fortunately, activists and advocates are taking a stand for consumers nationwide. In response to the product recalls at Claire’s, Representative Debbie Dingell introduced a bill known as the Children’s Product Warning Label Act of 2018. This legislation will require all children’s cosmetics to be labeled unless they have been confirmed asbestos-free. Her commitment to children’s health is not only inspiring, but could provide a sense of protection for parents and children in the future.
Representative Dingell has expressed her dedication to the cause stating, “Parents across the country should have the peace of mind in knowing that the cosmetics they buy for their children are safe. No child should be exposed to asbestos through the use of common, everyday products”.
Content for this article was provided by the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness (MAAC), an organization dedicated to educating people about mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos exposure, connecting mesothelioma patients to experts who can provide help, and reporting developments in mesothelioma treatment, asbestos legislation, and related issues. To learn more about what they do or to find additional resources, visit www.maacenter.org.