Last week, we wrote about a $72 million jury award against Johnson & Johnson. The lawsuit was filed by the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer and had used J&J's talcum body powder for feminine hygiene for most of her life.
Talc is used as an ingredient in cosmetics, personal care products and even as a food additive. Although poorly mined talc can be contaminated with asbestos, talc itself is generally considered safe. But in recent years, that conclusion has been called into question.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer deemed talc to be "possibly carcinogenic" when used in the genital region. Researchers have noticed, for instance, a correlation between using talc as a feminine hygiene product and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
So is talc safe to use for other purposes? Unfortunately, the answer is unclear. One of talc's most well-known uses is as the key ingredient in baby powder. But starting back in the 1960s, the American Academy of Pediatrics began to caution against using talc-based baby powder on babies because of the risks that they could easily inhale the airborne powder.
Of course, when talc is used in cosmetics and other products, it is very likely that consumers are accidentally ingesting it. This may be harmless, but no one can say that for sure. The health risks and effects are still being debated.
In the meantime, all of us should understand that talc is in far more products than we may realize. If you are concerned about the possible health risks associated with talc, please do some research online, including this FDA page on talc safety.