Talc is a mineral used in a wide range of health and beauty products. It is used in baby powders, first aid products, food powders, antiperspirants and many cosmetics. Talc is a natural product and is mined throughout the world, including in the United States. Unfortunately, asbestos is also a naturally occurring substance and talc mines have the potential to also contain asbestos minerals. The first studies linking talc to asbestos were published in the 1960s.
A new study has revived concerns about talc products being contaminated with asbestos. Asbestos is a substance that has no safe limit. Any exposure to asbestos can lead to asbestos lung cancer or mesothelioma. It is thus highly concerning that talc products could be exposing consumers to asbestos. The study showed that the use of these talc products was particularly dangerous in small enclosed spaces, such as bathrooms, due to the increased likelihood of inhaling asbestos fibers released from the products.
The study tracked asbestos from talc mines to a health and beauty product. It then tied that asbestos to a woman who developed mesothelioma and had used the product for many years. The study was published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.
Talc mines are supposed to be carefully selected to avoid asbestos minerals. Whether that is feasible or not is up for debate. The study tends to show that either the mines are not being selected carefully enough or that no amount of care in choosing the mine will be sufficient to protect consumers. Talc products contaminated with asbestos are reaching consumers.
Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer, “Study: Cosmetic talc products carry asbestos peril,” by Andrew Schneider, 31 October 2014