Parents Worry about the Safety of Talcum Powder Use for Infants and Children

In light of the recent St. Louis trial verdict linking the use of Johnson’s Baby Powder to the development of ovarian cancer, parents are questioning the safety of talcum powder for use on babies and small children.

Kelly Hartzell, owner of Eat/Sleep/Play, a baby boutique in South Carolina, opened her store when she couldn’t find a good selection of natural products for her own baby. Parents are increasingly turning to more natural products and healthful living practices as they get alarming information about conventional products. Jessica Alba’s Honest Company sold a total of $10 million in natural products in its first year.

Parent-owned skin care lines fill the shelves of Eat/Sleep/Play, including Green + Lovely, a natural alternative to mainstream choices such as Johnson & Johnson baby products. Green + Lovely has an arrowroot powder as an alternative to talcum powder. Arrowroot- and cornstarch-based baby powders are harder to find in large retail stores, but they are readily found in health food stores, baby boutiques, and online retailers.

Talc, a naturally occurring mineral, is the main ingredient in Johnson’s Baby Powder and its Shower to Shower body powder. These powders, best sellers for years, and heavily promoted as feminine hygiene products, have been linked to ovarian cancer in women who use the powder as feminine hygiene product. Talc is widely used in cosmetics and personal care products because it absorbs moisture and helps prevent rashes.

Johnson & Johnson is now the target of several hundred lawsuits alleging that its talcum powders can lead to the development of ovarian cancer. When women use talcum powder in the genital area or sprinkle it on their underwear or sanitary pads, fine particles can reach the ovaries. In one study, researchers found talc particles in some tumors.

Legal documents indicate that Johnson & Johnson’s talc supplier added warning labels to talc in 2006, but J&J did not add warnings to its talcum powder labels, the New York Times reports. Johnson’s Baby Powder does carry a warning to keep it out of the reach of children and many pediatricians discourage talc use on babies, because of inhalation risks. Condom and surgical glove makers have stopped dusting those products with talc.

In February, a talcum powder trial concluded with an award of $72 million to the family of a long-time talcum powder user who died of ovarian cancer.

Studies of the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer have shown mixed outcomes but there is accumulating evidence of increased ovarian cancer risk in women who use talcum powder in the genital area. Studies have shown up to a 40 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer, though not a common disease, is often fatal. The disease has no distinctive early symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose. There is no screening test for ovarian cancer and the diagnosis often comes when the disease is in an advanced stage and is harder to treat and with a worse prognosis.

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