Talc: Another Magic Mineral?

James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. has handled thousands of cases involving people who were injured by exposure to asbestos, a substance sometimes called the “magic mineral,” because its low cost, resistance to heat, chemicals and electricity, and its ability to be woven into textiles, made it useful in many different applications. Unfortunately, asbestos turned out to be a major health hazard, causing such diseases as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Talc is another mineral with properties that made it useful in a whole host of applications, so it might also be described as a “magic mineral.” Ironically, many talc deposits were contaminated with asbestos, which means that people who mined talc, manufactured products containing talc, or used products containing talc, could also be exposed to asbestos without even knowing it.

asbestos jhaa

In other articles, we have discussed how pulverized talc (talcum powder) was used in personal care products such as baby powder, after shave powder, after shower powder and body powder, but this only scratches the surface when it comes to listing the many uses for talc.  Other industries used talc in a wide variety of ways. Here are some examples:

Agriculture/Food: Talc has been used to polish white rice; to clarify olive oil, to coat chewing gum and candy so it won’t adhere to wrappers, and in manufacturing animal feeds & fertilizer as an anti-caking agent, dispersing agent, lubricant and inert carrier.

Ceramics: used in ceramic tile, art ware, and finishing glazes.

Coatings: used in paints and glazes to improve texture, matting & adhesion.

Dancing: talcum powder was often sprinkled on dance floors, particularly for tango practice. 

Paper: benefits of using talc include improved printability and reduced surface friction.

Pharmaceuticals & medical products: used as a coating in tablet manufacturing to prevent caking. Was also sprinkled on surgical gloves and condoms.

Plastics: used as an additive to enhance the properties of various products.

Rubber: used as an additive. Also used as a coating on products like balloons and rubber bands to prevent them from sticking together.

Wastewater Treatment: used to filter water. Because it is inert, it does not adversely affect the use of sewage sludge for fertilizer.

There have been several cases of mesothelioma (an asbestos-related cancer) among talc miners and people who used products which contained talcum powder, including personal care products such as baby powder which were used for several years. Recently, a trial court in Missouri upheld a verdict of $4.7 billion in favor of 22 women and their families who claimed that the women had developed ovarian cancer after using baby powder and other talcum products for several years.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by exposure to asbestos, please call us at for a free initial consultation at 304-347-5050 (local) or 877-341-2595 (toll-free). You may also contact us through our website, www.jfhumphreys.com.


USGS Fact Sheet FS-0065-00 (September 2000), https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs-0065-00/

Industrial Minerals Association-North America, “What is Talc?” https://www.ima-na.org/page/what_is_talc (available on-line 2/20/18).

FDA, “Talc,” https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/products/productsingredients/ingredients/ucm293184.htm (available on-line 2/20/18).

Mindy J. Hull, et al., “Mesothelioma among Workers in Asbestiform Fiber-bearing Talc Mines in New York State; Ann Occup. Hyg., vol. 46, supp. 1, pp. 132-35 (2003),  https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/44d6/boddc322e8e667adfa50f2d9313751eb7c.pdf 

Tiffany Hsu, New York Times, 12/19/18, “Johnson & Johnson Loses Bid to Overturn a $4.7 Billion Baby Powder Verdict,” https://nytimes.com/2018/12/19/…/johnson-johnson-baby-powder-verdict.html



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: