The all-white bottle of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is iconic, but the company had decided to discontinue the sale of its talcum-based product in the United States and Canada, per The New York Times. The announcement comes on the heels of thousands of lawsuits against the company that claim that the powder caused ovarian cancer and other illnesses due to its contamination with asbestos. Though Johnson & Johnson denies the claim and continues to fight against the allegation in court, demand for talc-based baby powder has dropped off significantly.
Should you use baby powder on your baby? What are the risks of using baby powder as a feminine hygiene product during pregnancy? While research into these issues is currently ongoing, and though opinions within the pediatric and medical community are somewhat divided, The Birth Injury Lawyers Group wants to provide you with everything you need to know about talcum baby powder and potential health risks. Continue to check back for additional updates as more research provides us with more answers.
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Using Talc-Based Products on Babies
Diaper rashes are a menace, and many parents turn to baby powder for help. This makes sense, as “baby” is in the name of the product! But as far back as 1969, the American Academy of Pediatrics argued against the use of talcum powder on babies, primarily due to the product’s propensity to inflict serious lung and respiratory harm. Regardless of the possibility of talcum powder causing ovarian cancer, one of the main issues that directly affects babies is the inhalation of the powder’s “dust.”
The inhalation of talc powder can lead to serious defects in the lungs, such as nodules and scarring, which makes breathing difficult. Talc Pneumoconiosis is a rare form of respiratory disease caused by inhaling large amounts of talc. While it is most often seen among workers in the talc production industry, repeated exposure to talc powder increases the risk of babies developing this or other lung complications.
Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that occurs in the mesothelium cells within the lungs. It is known to derive from exposure to asbestos, a dangerous carcinogen. While talc does not appear (according to current research) to directly cause cancer, talc mines are sometimes contaminated with asbestos. Johnson & Johnson denies that its baby powder contained any asbestos, but part of the decision to cease the sale of its product is no doubt based upon a recent finding that a bottle of the company’s powder contained trace amounts of asbestos.
If a baby inhales talc powder that is contaminated with asbestos, they may develop mesothelioma as well as Talc Pneumoconiosis or additional lung and respiratory problems. The American Cancer Society’s statistics on survival rates for mesothelioma indicate an average five-year survival rate of 20%. Though mesothelioma is relatively rare in the United States, it is a particularly aggressive and deadly form of cancer.
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Why People Use Talc
Traditionally, baby powder has been made from talc because the natural mineral is especially soft, gentle, and absorbent. This, seemingly, positioned talc as the perfect mineral to use on sensitive diaper rashes for babies or for absorbency and odor control for feminine hygiene.
Among the complaints brought forward by thousands of victims across the country is the allegation that Johnson & Johnson’s internal documents reveal that the company knew about the risks involved with talc usage and decided not to disclose this information to the public. In other words, the lawsuits claim that the company actively concealed information that would have influenced consumers’ decisions, leading consumers to continue using talc without knowing about the potential risks.
Your Alternatives to Talcum Powder
There are several alternatives to the use of talcum-based baby powder. However, keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics’ main issue with baby powder is the ease with which a baby can inhale the particulate matter. Other powders still may be dangerous in this regard.
The Environmental Working Group is an organization that documents, tracks, and recommends products based on the ingredients they use. In this case, you may benefit from a glance at EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetic database. If you have been using baby powder for diaper rashes, consider using creams or lotions that do not contain talc or other minerals associated with asbestos.
The Skin Deep cosmetic database is also a source for feminine hygiene options that are safer than talc-based powders.
Typically, cornstarch is used as a natural alternative to talc powder. By having a similar consistency as talc, cornstarch can behave in much the same way, absorbing moisture, preventing rashes, and eliminating or disguising odors.
What to Do if You Must Use Powder
If you do decide to use baby powder (regardless of its ingredients), the best method is to keep the bottle as far away from your baby as possible. Since one of the main concerns is the inhalation of dust, keeping the bottle far away can prevent particles from entering your baby’s lungs in case of a spill.
Additionally, you should not directly apply the powder to your baby’s diaper area. Instead, put a bit of powder on your hands and gently tap around your baby’s diaper area. This can reduce the amount of particulate matter around your baby’s face, helping to prevent inhalation.
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Using Talcum Baby Powder While Pregnant
With the known and alleged dangers of talc-based powders, it is understandable that you may be worried about using talcum powder while pregnant. In general, it is a good idea to cease the use of talc-based powders for your own health, as evidence points to women who use talc having a 33% increase in the likelihood of developing ovarian cancer.
However, many pregnant women may worry about potential harm to their child as a result of using talcum powder while pregnant.
Talc-Based Powders and Birth Defects
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, birth defects have various causes: the use of certain medications, genetics and family history, alcohol, smoking, and the mother’s age. As of now, there is no evidence that the use of talcum powder as a feminine hygiene product during pregnancy results in an increased risk for a birth defect or injury.
However, the thousands of lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson indicate that many women have experienced personal health issues that they believe were caused by the use of talcum powder. At the very least, switching to an alternative feminine hygiene product can help you reduce your personal risk of ovarian cancer.
The Birth Injury Lawyers Group is dedicated to providing you with accurate, up-to-date information on all birth and baby-related issues. Please continue to check back for future updates as more research is conducted and compiled.