Asbestos in talcum powder

Time for some BS busting - does talcum powder contain asbestos, and is it safe to use? Did it ever contain asbestos and what safety measures are in place to prevent this occurring?

Please refer to your source information or reasoning. BS Buster badges for your profile awarded for top answers. :cow2: :cowboy_hat_face:


Did you mean talcum or asbestos?


Yes, thanks for the correction :slight_smile: I’ve updated the post.


From the American Cancer Society - ‘In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled’

From the Cancer Council (WA) ‘Home talc products have been asbestos-free since the 1970s but the debate continues today.’

‘This’ is undefined in your question. I presume you mean cancer? or you could mean asbestos in talc?

Yes there is asbestos in some forms of talc, and magnesium trisilicate (from which talc is produced) is mined near asbestos as the minerals are similar, referenced in the above links.

Options? Use cornstarch based powders in lieu of talc, and since inhaled talc can have an inflammatory response be careful not to inhale it, if using it.


The WA Cancer Council also makes this important point:

Since 1973, talcum powders for use at home have been required by law to be asbestos free.


I’m passing on this but for one point of interest. From Wikipedia under safety studies of talc:

One of these, published in 1993, was a US National Toxicology Program report, which found that cosmetic grade talc containing no asbestos-like fibres was correlated with tumor formation in rats forced to inhale talc for 6 hours a day, five days a week over at least 113 weeks.[17]

My first question is if you forced rats to inhale it for so long how many other common substances would cause tumors?

My second is what did the rats do on the weekend? Perhaps because they had such a shitty 9-5 job they all took up overeating, fondness for intoxicants or self-harm and that caused the tumors not the talc.


The talc made from - mineral Magnesium trisilicate is also used in cosmetic products other than baby powder.

The broader question might apply to more than baby powder. It has even been used in artists crayons.

It’s a interesting challenge question @BrendanMays.
In particular considering how many other known harmful substances we are exposed to more routinely.

Having associated the J&J product as always being marketed as ‘Baby Powder’, the following from the NY Times article is most perplexing.

Should I keep talc away from my baby?

Yes. Pediatricians have been warning parents for decades not to use powder on babies because of the risk a child will inhale or aspirate talc, which can cause choking and coughing and lead to respiratory illness or chronic disease and lung damage. This has nothing to do with asbestos. :thinking:


@BrendanMays - light reading for you.

Letter concerning: Burns AM, Barlow CA, Banducci AM, Unice KM, Sahmel J. Potential Airborne AsbestosExposure and Risk Associated with the Historical Use of Cosmetic Talcum Powder Products

  • [Finkelstein, Murray Martin]


Risk Analysis , v 39, n 12, p 2601-2603, December 1, 2019; ISSN: 02724332, E-ISSN: 15396924; DOI: 10.1111/risa.13401; Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc.

Potential Airborne Asbestos Exposure and RiskAssociated with the Historical Use of Cosmetic TalcumPowder Products

  • [Burns, Amanda M.]


Risk Analysis , v 39, n 10, p 2272-2294, October 1, 2019; ISSN: 02724332, E-ISSN: 15396924; DOI: 10.1111/risa.13312; Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc.

[Assessment of Health Risk from Historical Use of Cosmetic Talcum Powder]

Anderson, Elizabeth L. (Exponent Inc., Alexandria; VA, United States); Sheehan, Patrick J.; Kalmes, Renee M.; Griffin, John R. Source: Risk Analysis, v 37, n 5, p 918-929, May 2017

  1. Detection of toxic metals (lead and chromium) in talcum powder using laser induced breakdown spectroscopy
    Gondal, Mohammed A. 1 ; Dastageer, Mohamed A. 1 ; Naqvi, Akhtar A. 1 ; Isab, Anvar A. 2 ; Maganda, Yasin W. 1
    Source: Applied Optics, v 51, n 30, p 7395-7401, October 20, 2012; ISSN: 00036935, E-ISSN: 15394522; DOI: 10.1364/AO.51.007395; Publisher: OSA - The Optical Society

@Albie what is the message you want us to get from these studies is a sentence or three?

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Hi @syncretic, it answers, in part, the original post. As I am not a medical researcher I have no intention of purchasing the articles and attempting to summarise them. If @BrendanMays is concerned with the isssue, he or someone at Choice, with the appropriate expertise, could perhaps review the current scientific literature and post an informed answer to the question. The references cited provide a starting point for this.

How did you choose them?

@syncretic, because they clearly indicate that some talcum powder does contain some form(s) of asbestos. Whether the levels are harmful - no idea.

The fourth reference indicates the presence of other contaminants, namely lead and chromium.

The question posed has a simple yes / no answer probably with some grey. The complex bit is reviewing peer reviewed scientific literature to arrive at a considered opinion.

Hope that answers you question.

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It is very difficult to get talcum powder (for use on a human, not for an industrial or other use) that does not contain added perfume/s.
Even “pure” baby talc isn’t pure. Many people, including myself, are made ill from all the various scents added to products. I use unscented shower wash, unscented antiperspirant, unscented hand wash, etc, etc.
Simple brand used to make unscented talc which didn’t have asbestos in it. Then they stopped making it.
Then I bought unscented talc without asbestos in it from “compounding chemist” as it is an ingredient in various things they compound.
Bur compounding chemists in my part of the country have stopped making things on their premises, and thus no longer sell it nor know anyone who sells it.
So I was reduced to buying 100% pure talc from a wholesaler, but the catch was that because it wasn’t designated for human use it was not certified as being asbestos free.
An ex-Navy friend suggested that surely the talcum powder used to package life rafts would have to be certified as asbestos free because of the potential exposure to humans using the rafts - I haven’t been able to confirm if this is true or not.
(happily since then I have found a veterinarian compounding chemist who sells me pure talc that is perfume free and is certified as being asbestos free).
This would be an issue for all people seeking to avoid both head-ache causing perfumes and asbestos in their talcum powder.
With respect to corn starch - maybe that is an option for folks who live somewhere the humidity is low, but where I live corn starch plus humidity equals glue. Also fungus that thrives in warm moist conditions may consider corn starch (or corn flour or wheat flour) sprinkled on the body and in the shoes etc to be a ‘meal’.


I have given up using talcum powder ever since learning that particles of talc were detected when tissue from ovarian tumour was examined.
I just dry off well after a shower.


“particles of talc” These days they’d probably find very small particles of plastic in tissues from most parts of the body.

I use talc because (a) I live in a warm humid part of the world, and (b) ovaries are a thing of the past for me.

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An article regarding asbestos in cosmetics.

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It’s so fine it’s impossible to not inhale it as tiny particles become airborne.
Visiting my mother’s bathroom was a health hazard for this reason!


starting to get off topic I realise, but micro plastics aren’t just found in the digestive tracts of animals (including humans). In 2020 microplastics were found in human placentas.

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Time for some updates here.

Firstly, the talc and asbestos minerals, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “may be found in close proximity in the earth”. The FDA goes on to say that there is the potential for cross-contamination.

It turns out that asbestos has in fact been found in talcum powder. The FDA found trace amounts in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder (which does not, despite its name, contain any powdered baby). The company subsequently issued a voluntary recall in October 2019.

Johnson & Johnson is currently seeking to restructure its business. The suggestion has been made that this is in part to avoid liability for US lawsuits relating to cancer claims - in particular ovarian cancer - based upon the use of talcum powder.

A paper published on PubMed in 2019 states in part regarding talc, asbestos and ovarian cancer that “for over 40 years, talc mining and manufacturing companies attempted to obfuscate the importance of these findings by keeping exposure information behind a corporate veil and otherwise influencing medical information concerning the health effects and asbestos content of talc used in cosmetics.” The paper goes on to discuss evidence regarding cancer relating to talc products with and possibly without asbestos, and provides some comment on the post-1972 “so-called ‘asbestos-free’ talc”. (As mentioned above, the FDA found asbestos in talc in 2019.)

And so the world turns. In May 2020, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would stop selling talc-based baby powder in the US and in Canada.

Finally, in August of 2022, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would stop making and selling talc-based baby powder worldwide.


That is the evidence, now for the anecdote as of early November 2022.

My wife apparently heard this on the news, and advised me at the time. I failed to pay attention until I listened to a podcast episode about the sorry saga yesterday.

We have used Johnson & Johnson baby powder for many years, and I was immediately concerned. She, taking note of my concern, agreed to discard our current stock and visit the local pharmacy to find a replacement (corn starch is the most common alternative).

The pharmacy had another brand that contained corn starch, or Johnson & Johnson’s brand with talc - she purchased the other brand.

I subsequently wrote to the pharmacy last night, expressing my concerns and asking what actions it proposed to take. This afternoon I received an email from the Group Business Manager, to whom my email had been passed. Capital Chemist has issued an immediate notice to all of its pharmacies, instructing that the product is to be removed from shelves and binned; Johnson & Johnson has apparently reimbursed the group for the cost of current stock.

This is what high quality customer service looks like. Great work once again, Capital Chemist.