Should Anyone Be Using Baby Powder?

Baby powder has been widely used for more than a hundred years for diaper rash, skin irritation and personal hygiene. Although companies like Johnson & Johnson have long touted baby powder as safe and gentle, the American Pediatric Association and many physicians now recommend against using talcum powder, primarily because of respiratory concerns if the product is inhaled. Studies show that inhaled baby powder can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, and obstruction of the airways. In some cases, babies have developed pneumonia and even died from inhaling the powder.

Talcum powder (ground up talc, a clay like mineral) has been used in many baby powders. Talc is sometimes contaminated with asbestos, and that creates additional concerns about lung cancer and mesothelioma.

There are various ways to eliminate or reduce the inhalation risks associated with using baby powder. One way is to use a petroleum based product such as Vaseline or A&D ointment instead of a dry powder. There are also baby powders which do not contain talcum powder. Johnson & Johnson, for example, markets both talcum based and talcum free products.  When using dry powders on baby, use the product sparingly. Keep the powder away from the baby’s breathing zone, applying it with your hands, instead of sprinkling it directly on the child. And makes sure that the baby powder is kept in a tightly closed container away from other children who might get into it.

Talcum powder used in baby powder and similar products may be a hazard for mothers as well as their babies. Apart from inhalation risks, baby powder is frequently used by women for personal hygiene and many studies show an increased risk for ovarian cancer in women who use talcum based powders on a regular basis. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies genital use of talcum powder as a possible human carcinogen. The American Cancer Society recommends that women concerned about this risk may want to use products which contain alternatives to talcum powder, such as cornstarch, arrowroot or rice powder.

Despite a growing number of studies linking talcum powder use with ovarian cancer, Johnson & Johnson, the   largest health care product company in the world, has never warned consumers about this potential risk. As of July, 2017, there were approximately 4800 lawsuits pending in the United States against Johnson & Johnson involving women who developed ovarian cancer after using its products.  

If you have used talcum powder products such as baby powder and have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, please call James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. at 304-347-5050 for a free consultation.

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