What is talc?
Talc is an unusually soft mineral which is produced by the mining of talc rocks. The rocks are then processed by crushing and milling. The bad news is that there are fibers attached to talc that are not removed by the milling and drying process. These fibers are described as “asbestos-like”. There is an on-going debate as to whether these fibers are in fact asbestos so that issue remains unsolved.
How is talc used?
Because talc is so soft and highly absorbent of moisture it has been used in thousands of applications. It is used in home and garden pesticides, body powders, medications, deodorants, chalk, crayons, textiles, soap, insulation, paints, asphalt filler, paper and in food processing. It was used as an anti-caking agent in rice and became part of controversial case in Puerto Rico a few years ago. Surprisingly, it is even found in some anti-acids!
Why is talc dangerous?
The Cancer Prevention Coalition describes talc as being “closely related to the potent carcinogen asbestos”. They go on to say that talc fibers have been shown to cause cancer in the ovaries and lungs. In fact, talc that has had all asbestos like fibers removed has been found to be carcinogenic. Talc was used as a dusting for the genital area in women for over 50 years. Consequently, the incidence of ovarian cancer in pre-menopausal women has increased and tumors regularly show evidence of talc fibers. Talc miners have shown higher rates of lung cancer and other respiratory ailments. Accidental inhalation of talc has caused the deaths of thousands of infants over the last few decades.
In 1997 Senator Edward Kennedy issued a statement to the Senate encouraging them to craft legislation asking the FDA to put cancer warning labels on all talc products. To this day, no ruling has ever been issued on this deadly mineral. It is a shame that there is so much indifference to a toxic substance when 20% of all pre-menopausal women in the U.S. still use the product as a hygienic dust and talc baby powder still sits on the shelves of drug and grocery stores. As has been shown over the last 30 years there is an unwillingness in our Federal agencies to go against the will of big business interests and fully ban talc and asbestos in thousands of products that we use every day. It is up to the consumer to protect their own health and the health of those they love.