The Dangers of Talcum Powder for Women


Talcum powder has been used for decades by women as a way to absorb moisture and odors and leave a pleasant scent behind. But for a number of years, some women and some scientists have suspected that talcum powder may not be so innocent as it first appears. There is a growing link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

While there hasn’t been a study that conclusively links together the use of talcum powder with ovarian cancer, there is enough evidence that juries are starting to award damages to women who developed the disease. Johnson & Johnson is facing thousands of potential cases from women who developed ovarian cancer and believe that their decades-long use of talcum powder is the cause, and many personal injury lawyers are seeking additional claimants after big wins against J&J.

The Evidence

But what is the evidence? Here’s what we know. First, for older people, there is a slight risk of asbestos exposure through early talc products. Talc and asbestos, a well-known carcinogen, are often found together in nature. In the 1970s, companies were required to remove any traces of asbestos from their products, but older users may have been exposed. Health agencies do agree that talc containing asbestos is a carcinogen. What’s unclear is the whether talc alone will also cause cancer.

The studies on the matter are mixed. Some doctors believe that regular use of talc on female genitals can increase the risk of ovarian cancer by 30%. Others say that the risk is much less. The dose and length of exposure also seem to be factors in whether or not cancer develops. Talc has been found to make its way to the ovaries through the genitals in long-term users, so the ovaries can get exposed to it. But scientists are divided about how much of a danger that is. Until more research is done, the answer will remain murky.

Perhaps Like Cigarettes

While no hard link has been established, there is still enough evidence that juries are awarding huge amounts of compensation to women who believe that talcum product manufacturers knew about the cancer risk and failed to put warning labels on talc products. Since talcum powder is a cosmetic, it doesn’t have to undergo strict testing like drugs or foods. It just has to be safe under normal use.

But talc may end up being much like cigarettes. One cigarette isn’t going to kill you or cause cancer. It’s the ongoing use of cigarettes for years that raises the risk. Talc may be the same, and it may take many more studies to prove a definitive link or dosage.

Some women use talcum powder daily as part of their hygiene routine, but as more of these cases hit the news it may cause women to stop using it, or for manufacturers to start putting warning labels on their products. J&J has lost five cases so far and had one dismissed, so whatever the science might be the public believes there is a danger.