Minerals – Exploring Talc

Minerals are used in our everyday products. In this post, we'll explore the ingredient talc.

What is talc?

Talc, also known as talcum powder, is an insoluble, clay mineral found throughout the world. It is mined and processed for many products including baby powder, makeup, foods, anti-caking agents, pharmaceuticals, and more.

Does talc contain asbestos?

The mineral talc can be found located with the mineral asbestos. Therefore, if mining sites are not properly tested and established when mining talc there is a chance of asbestos contamination.

In 1976, the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association, now known as the Personal Care Products Council, recommended all personal care products containing talc be tested to ensure only asbestos-free talc is present in products as asbestos is a known carcinogen when inhaled. While the U.S. FDA can and does issue recalls for asbestos-contaminated products, as they are banned throughout the U.S., it’s the manufacturers' responsibility to ensure they are free from the carcinogen.

Does talc cause cancer?

Talcum powders containing asbestos could cause cancer or other adverse health outcomes when inhaled. Talc without asbestos was not found to be a carcinogen when inhaled based on a report by the U.S. EPA.

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer as a result of talcum powder use is unclear. Current research shows mixed results with some studies saying there is an elevated risk1,2,3, while other studies, taking into account potential biases do not show an increased risk.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) established that asbestos-free talc is possibly carcinogenic to humans when used on the perineum.

The IARC did not find asbestos-free talc to be carcinogenic in other uses.

Should I use talc-based powder?

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend using any dusting powder, regardless of the ingredients, for infants and small children. This is due to the potential for infants and small children to inhale the powder leading to breathing problems unassociated with a particular ingredient.

For adults, talc-based powders pose few health risks when used according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Should I avoid products containing talc?

Beyond the above-mentioned caution, products containing asbestos-free talc do not pose any known health risks and are safe as long as they are used based on the manufacturer’s directions.

Is talc safe in food products?

Food grade talc that you would find in products such as chewing gum and rice, are GRAS ingredients, recognized as safe by the U.S. FDA. and are safe to consume.

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