Talcum Powder – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Talcum Powder or simply, Talc is a processed from a soft mineral compound of magnesium silicate. It is commonly used to ameliorate skin rashes and irritation and to absorb excess sweat or moisture from the skin. Many also use it just to fresh in addition to deodorants. Decades of advertising has given a “clean and fresh” image to talcum powder. So much so, that mothers are considered ‘bad’ moms if they refuse to dust their babies with this wonder powder daily!

What’s Good About Talcum Powder:

Talcum powder DOES have superior moisture & oil absorption properties. Being smooth, it reduces friction between folds o the skin. And it DOES have a soothing effect on the skin and is especially useful in case of skin rashes and irritation.

What’s Bad About Talcum Powder

Talc is obtained thru the process of mining minerals. Because of this process, it can have decent levels of asbestos, lead and other dangerous heavy metals.  IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) classifies talc that contains asbestos as “carcinogenic to humans.

In addition to the mineral Talc, there are scores of chemical additives added to any commercial talcum powder. Read the ingredient labels and you will see manesium or zinc stearate, perfume, triclosan etc. There might even be hidden preservatives and texturizers which the manufacturers may not disclose. Some of these ingredients themselves are known hormone disruptors.

 

The Ugly Truth About Talcum Powder

Cancer: The use of talcum powder on a regular  basis brings a vast ugly basket of health problems. Ranging from respiratory problems, allergies to even cancer. Women who apply talcum powder in their intimate areas are at a 20% – 30% higher of ovarian cancer as per one study which pooled in eight research papers.The president of the industry’s Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association, Edward Kavanaugh, conceded in 2002 that talc is toxic and “can reach the human ovaries.”

What is surprising is that many people dub this as a ‘controversy’ and call it a ‘moderately increased risk’ for a very rare disease. It is only rare till it happens in your own homes.

Allergies: Talc particles are so small that they become air borne easily. When inhaled they can trigger allergic reactions in both adults and children. The thing with allergies is that once the body goes into a downward spiral of allergies, it becomes even more sensitive with subsequent exposures and then even a small exposure would cause heightened allergic response.

Dust: It is not a surprising fact that talc dust settles on practically every surface of the room where it is used. Shelves, closet doors, bedsheets and mattresses. Add atmospheric humidity to this and you’ve got a tasty feeding ground for dust mites and other allergens growing right inside your bedroom.

Dangers to Babies: . The practice of dusting babies wwith talc can result in the inhalation of significant amounts of powder, causing acute or chronic lung irritation, known as talcosis. It is especially dangerous if used near the neck and behind ears of babies as this makes it even more easy to inhale the talc particles. And again, the perfume and other added chemicals in these powders put our babies at a higher risk since their bodies are small and even small amounts of these chemicals can have a huge impact on their delicate endocrine systems.

 

What To Use Instead of Talcum Powder

First of all, prevention is so much better than cure. If you suffer from frequent itchy skin, try to identify what causes frequent skin irritation or rashes and address that issue. Not only will you be free from the need to use talc, you will also have rid yourself from the underlying health condition which was causing this annoyance. If you MUST use talc try the corn starch based versions which have heavier particles that cannot be breathed in so easily.

In babies, use coconut oil or bees wax balms to lubricate skin folds. Needless to add, make sure these alternative products do not contain any of the added nasties we talked about here.

These simple steps will help you and your family avoid one source of chronic health problems.

References:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samuel-s-epstein/talcum-powder-the-hidden_b_279523.html
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/23/should-i-stop-using-talcum-powder
http://www.drugwatch.com/talcum-powder/

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