Baby powder may seem like a safe and logical product to use on your baby – talcum powder has been used for years to keep baby’s bottom dry in his diaper – but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against it. Not only can baby powder irritate the lungs, it can also increase the risk of ovarian cancer in girls.
Talc is a mineral made up of elements such as magnesium and silicon. It is ground down into a fine powder known as talcum powder and sold commercially as body or facial powder to absorb moisture. However, talc can also contain asbestos, a substance that is known to cause lung cancer.
Some researchers, including Harvard University’s Dr. Daniel Cramer, say talc can cause ovarian cancer if used regularly by women for hygiene purposes. The American Cancer Society agrees that it is possible that the fine dust can travel up the vagina, through the uterus and fallopian tubes and into the ovaries, where it can increase the risk of cancer.
Dr. Cramer, who has studied the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer for more than 30 years, was one of three researchers who found talc in the cancerous ovarian tissue of a woman who was a longtime user of Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower body powder. The woman later sued the manufacturer and won her case.
It is no surprise that many mothers ask their doctors or visit sites like BabyCenter.com and CircleofMoms.com to find out whether using baby powder is safe. Many women on the forums say their doctors have warned them of breathing problems in babies who accidentally inhale the fine powder. Now, many are learning of other dangers, such the ovarian cancer risk for women.
Yet, despite losing the lawsuit, which alleged Johnson & Johnson knowingly withheld the cancer risk associated with its talc products from consumers, the company says it still doesn’t see the need to warn women of this risk. Dr. Cramer, on the other hand, says as many as 10,000 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year likely developed the disease due to talc exposure.