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Talc is a mineral used in products for its absorbent properties. Certain cosmetic items contain the talc mineral and are sold without FDA approval. Some studies indicate that talc may be associated with a risk of developing cancer.

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Talc can be found in products such as baby powder, which may be used for feminine hygiene, cosmetics and in household items. This mineral exists naturally in our environment. It is made up of magnesium, silicon, oxygen and hydrogen. Talc, like other minerals, has to be mined for use. 1

Studies and recent litigation suggest that in some cases using this substance is associated with developing cancer.

What Is Talc Used For?

Talc is known for its absorbent properties. Talc also reduces friction. 2

Because of these characteristics, talc products may be marketed to help keep skin dry and protect against rashes. Talc may also be used in certain consumer products “to prevent caking, to make facial makeup opaque, or to improve the feel of a product.” 3

You can find talc in many things, from body powders to baby powder to blush to eyeshadow to foundation, as well as in food such as chewing gum and rice. 4

Cosmetic Products Made with Talc

The two primary laws regulating cosmetics promoted and sold in the United States are the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetics but does not “approve” them. 5

According to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, color additives in cosmetics must be FDA-approved, but the cosmetics themselves and many of their ingredients do not need FDA approval. 6

In addition, manufacturers must properly label their cosmetic products and the products must be “safe for use by consumers under labeled or customary conditions of use.” Manufacturers have “legal responsibility for the safety and labeling of their products and ingredients, but the law does not require them to share their safety information with FDA.” 7

Cosmetic and personal care products, including ones made with talc, do not require the stringent testing that medications must undergo. Therefore, you do not find FDA-mandated warnings on these types of products. 8

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Alternatives to Talc-Containing Products

A variety of retailers promote personal care products as being talc-free alternatives. Some of these include certain foundation and face powder formulations made by companies such as Revlon, L’Oreal Paris, Physicians Formula, Clinique and Estee Lauder. 9

Talc Powders and Ovarian Cancer: Recent Jury Decisions

Recent decisions involving talcum powder and ovarian cancer and Johnson & Johnson are making headlines across the media. Johnson & Johnson has suffered two defeats in court, totaling jury awards of $127 million in damages. 10

The plaintiffs in these cases claimed that using Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder led to their ovarian cancer diagnoses. Johnson & Johnson has said it will appeal both decisions. 11

Johnson & Johnson is facing talcum lawsuits from consumers around the country. Some 1,200 lawsuits have been filed alleging a link between ovarian cancer and use of talc powder for feminine hygiene. Upcoming trials are expected to take place in New Jersey and St. Louis this September. 12

In the February 2016 suit, the jury awarded the plaintiff’s estate $72 million. In the May 2016 decision, the jury awarded the plaintiff $55 million. 13 In these two cases, the plaintiffs claimed that Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based baby powder, which the two women used for feminine hygiene, “traveled to their ovaries and accumulated there, causing cancer, and that J&J had long known about this danger but failed to warn consumers.” 14

  1. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm293184.htm 

  2. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/talcum-powder-and-cancer 

  3. >http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/talcum-powder-and-cancer; http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm293184.htm> 

  4. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm293184.htm 

  5. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/GuidanceRegulation/LawsRegulations/ucm074162.htm 

  6. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm293184.htm 

  7. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm293184.htm 

  8. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm293184.htm 

  9. http://www.drugstore.com/th/talc-free-face-powder.html; http://shop.nordstrom.com/th/talc-free-makeup 

  10. http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/25/health/talc-safety-explainer-hln/; http://abcnews.go.com/Health/win-johnson-johnson-talcum-powder-lawsuit-son-honors/story?id=37162943; http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-talcum-powder-cancer-20160503-story.html; https://www.law360.com/articles/792001/j-j-s-talcum-trial-losses-create-litigation-powder-keg 

  11. https://www.law360.com/articles/792001/j-j-s-talcum-trial-losses-create-litigation-powder-keg 

  12. https://www.law360.com/articles/792001/j-j-s-talcum-trial-losses-create-litigation-powder-keg 

  13. https://www.law360.com/articles/792001/j-j-s-talcum-trial-losses-create-litigation-powder-keg 

  14. https://www.law360.com/articles/792001/j-j-s-talcum-trial-losses-create-litigation-powder-keg