Talc or talcum powder has been around a long time.
It is only in recent years, however, that the harmful effects of talc have been exposed.
Talc is an ingredient that is used in many products, and there have been several question marks around its safety and the presence of asbestos.
So what is talc? Talc is a mineral that is found underground and is the softest mineral known to man.
The problem with talc is that there is a potential that it could have been cross-contaminated with asbestos while underground.
One cancer, ovarian cancer, might have been exasperated by the use of talcum powder and several successful cases have been brought against Johnson & Johnson a leading talc brand.
So besides talcum powder in it rarest form what other products might contain talc and thus be hazardous to us.
Pressed Cosmetic Powders
Pressed cosmetic powders are now a standard product found in drug stores and on beauty counters.
Talc is a common ingredient added to pressed cosmetic powders as it creates a soft silky texture and it commonly acts as a filler.
The problem is that although cosmetic manufacturers may try to avoid talc contaminated with asbestos, there are no regulations to check commercial make up.
Many deodorants have an aluminum-based compound as part of their make up.
Because of their use under the arm it there has been concern around the incidence of breast cancer caused by the use of deodorants.
The problem is that there have been conflicting research results on the link between breast cancer and the use of deodorants.
Only one study out of three has found a link, and that was in younger women.
Talc has been a commonly used substance in the processing of foodstuffs.
As a food additive in the USA, the FDA has stated that is is ‘generally recognized as safe.’
Research in the Netherlands identified, however, that this could be a health risk.
They argue that there is an unawareness of the possible health dangers of talc in food and its inhalation.
Talc is generally used as an anti-caking agent.
There is also some concern about the use of talc in food supplements.
The assumption here is that talc or magnesium silicate used in food supplements is not contaminated with aluminum.
The problem here is that there is no requirement to be tested for purity or contamination.
A good example widely reported is the case in Japan, where talc was added to rice to stop the rice sticking together and made the rice whiter.
However, it led to a higher incidence of stomach cancer amongst Japanese men.
Talc is added to eye shadow as it helps the silky texture and makes it easy to apply.
As in the case of other cosmetics, however, as there is no regulation in determining whether talc has asbestos contamination, it is difficult to avoid.
One way is to check the ingredients on all your make up including eye shadow and look out for talc or magnesium silicate.
To conclude, it is clear that there is considerable confusion on the health impact of products that are talc-based.
More research is needed to give comfort to consumers that we are not applying or ingesting a harmful substance.