Why has talc been so much in the news?

13 min read

In earlier days, baby care often included dusting babies generously with talcum powder. It has been indispensable on changing tables and an integral part of baby care rituals. It has continued to be hugely popular in adult skin care and makeup routines worldwide for over a century now.

According to factsabouttalc.com, talcum based baby powder is made from a highly stable, chemically inert and odorless, naturally occurring mineral called Talc. Talc is the softest mineral on earth which has been used since time immemorial for cosmetic purposes owing to its smoothness, safety and absorbency. Its ability to retain fragrance, hold lustre and absorb oil and grease makes it a favored ingredient not only in face, body and baby powders but is also used commonly in toothpaste, antiperspirants, chewing gums and drug tablets.

However this pleasant smelling powder is now shrouded in controversy.

The Talc Controversy

The relatively recent jury verdicts in two personal injury lawsuits in the United States has generated an increase in the concern regarding the possible association of Johnson and Johnson baby powder and cancer making the quintessential talc infamous. With the Johnson baby powder cancer news spreading like wildfire some have questioned whether talcum powder can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.

However, it becomes imperative to be able to distinguish between the jury verdicts and the decades of science and research by medical experts across the globe which have proved time and again the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in a broad spectrum of products. With over a 100 years of use, very few ingredients have shown the same performance, mildness and safety profile of talc. Another point to note would be that cosmetic talc has not been included in the most recent report on carcinogens which has been published by the US National Toxicology Program, which yet again contradicts the Johnson & Johnson baby powder cancer speculation.

Contrary to what is being portrayed by the media, cosmetic grade talc has not been proven to cause cancer. Some talc in its natural form have asbestos which has been linked to cause cancer in and around the lungs when inhaled .However the American Cancer Society website claims, “ All talcum products used in homes in the United States have been asbestos free since the 1970’s. The food and drug administration has also claimed to have not found the presence of asbestos in the products it has checked.

The Johnson baby powder cancer link had made its way to India as well. In December 2018, Johnson and Johnson was asked to stop using raw material from its Mulund plant in Mumbai and Baddi unit in Himachal Pradesh, for any talcum powder production until further directions by the Drugs Controller General of India, DCGI.

However, a recent government sanctioned testing has proved that the product does not contain any asbestos and is absolutely safe for use. Johnson and Johnson has now resumed production in both the plants

Why use talcum powder on babies?

Talcum powder has been found to have positive effects on both adult and baby skin as it’s mainly used to smoothen the appearance of the skin. According to researchgate.net, infant skin is nearly 30% thinner than adult skin which makes it more prone to damage. When exposed to excess external moisture it can lead to skin damage and impairment of the skin barrier function of immature infant skin.


As stated by the Scientists of Johnson’s, baby talcum powder has been found to

  • Prevent Rashes
  • Protect the baby from excess wetness
  • Reduce irritation caused due to friction and rubbing.
  • Leaves a refreshing and lingering fragrance.
  • Keeps a baby cool, dry and comfortable.

What kind of baby powder is recommended?

As mentioned in factsabouttalc.com

  • It is recommended to use only pharmaceutical grade of talc.
  • The talc must be of high purity and should be mined in certified locations from select deposits to relatively large non respirable particle size.
  • It must meet the US FDA standards and be absolutely free of carcinogens like asbestos and asbestiform fibers.
  • It must be dermatologist tested and hypoallergenic
  • A good baby talc should be ideally made of millions of tiny round slippery plates and not edgy plates such that they can glide over each other thereby reducing any sort of discomfort that can be caused by friction.

A feel test will help to further ascertain the quality of the talc. A good quality talc will have a much smoother feel with very fine particles.

The ingredients in baby powders like that of Johnsons & Johnsons have been evaluated by scientific and medical experts and have been found to meet all the above standards without compromising on the efficacy and potency of the product. Johnson’s baby talc powders are made of US pharmacopeial grade talc which meets the highest quality, purity and compliance standards. This same grade of talc is also used in medicines and tablets that we orally ingest, and has also been certified by the US Food and Drug Administration.

How can baby powder be used safely?

As per leading scientists & health care professionals working with Johnson’s, just like any cosmetic or hygiene product, talcum powder too must be used as instructed which includes in optimal amounts and with the right application methods. Proper and safe use of baby powder can prevent incidents of inhalation or choking. A few guidelines to keep in mind while using baby powder would be

  • Shake the powder onto a cloth and use it to gently pat the powder onto the baby’s skin. Hold the container away from your baby and tip a little on your hand. Rub the powder between your palms and dab it on your baby’s skin.
  • Avoid sprinkling the talc directly from the container on your baby’s body
  • Avoid direct sprinkling.
  • Keep the powder away from the baby’s face and eyes
  • Keep the powder out of the reach of children
  • Talcum powder does not protect against nappy rash, hence do not apply the same around your baby’s intimate areas. Instead, use a barrier cream.

Using clinically proven mild and gentle talc like Johnson’s baby powder as directed. This will ensure that the baby benefits from the application and any undesirable effects are avoided at all costs.

With the government lab tests giving a clean chit to Johnson’s baby powder, validating again that their baby powder is free of asbestos and refuting the Johnson baby powder cancer link. Johnsons uses only the purest of talc reinforcing decades of research done by labs, universities and the government that have consistently found their talc safe.

Talcum powder if used judiciously, will never be detrimental but will go a long way in keeping a baby fresh, comfortable and gurgling with joy.

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