Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) recently issued a report examining the adverse effects talc may have on human health. While this report focused on preliminary findings, the evidence about the danger of talc was enough for Health Canada to issue warnings about its use to healthcare professionals and Canadian citizens.
One of talc’s biggest hazards is that inhaling it can irritate the lungs, which leads to coughing and respiratory problems. Additionally, if women use talc on sanitary products or in the genital area, they can increase their risk of ovarian cancer. These crucial findings support previous studies about the hazards of talc, and current court battles regarding products that contain talc.
Powders Present a Hidden Danger
Talc is used in a number of personal care products, including baby and face powder, creams for diapers and rashes, and products used in the genital area as a deodorizer or as a means to decrease moisture. In its report, Health Canada advises health care providers and consumers to be very careful not to inhale talc powders, and that women should not use products that contain talc in the genital area.
If inhaled repeatedly over time, talc powder can lead to fibrosis in the lungs, which causes difficulty breathing. There are other materials that can be substituted for talc such as cornstarch, which provide many of the same absorbent benefits without the additional hazards. Once talc is in the lungs it can be an irritant for years, since it is very difficult for the body to expel.
The Health Canada report also noted that several studies have pointed to a link between talc-based baby powder used in genital area, and ovarian cancer. Doctors have suggested that talc can enter the reproductive system and cause inflammation in the ovaries, leading to an increased cancer risk.
Growing Call for New Government Guidelines
If these health dangers are confirmed in the final report, talc would be added to Canada’s list of substances that present a serious health danger. The government could then add warning labels and put other restrictions on products that contain talc.
Muhannad Malas, toxics program manager for the organization Environmental Defence Canada (EDC), argues that these consumer goods need "much stronger health warnings that would clearly identify the risks and clearly tell consumers why talcum is a problem and why we should avoid exposure to it."
Now that this preliminary report has been issued, there will be a 60-day period for the public and health-care professionals to review the information and offer comments. After this feedback is considered, there will be a final ruling and decision on the required level of regulation for talc. Health Canada may change how talc can be used in personal care products, household goods, and over-the-counter drugs.
New News Is Old News
Health Canada’s report is yet another confirmation of the health risks of talc. Over the past several years, numerous lawsuits regarding talc and ovarian cancer, lung damage, and mesothelioma have been ongoing in the United States. Just this past year, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay 22 women in the United States $4.7 Billion in a lawsuit alleging their ovarian cancer was caused by using baby powder in the genital area.
For years, companies such as Johnson & Johnson have tried to conceal this damaging information about talc, but consumers and countries have banded together to rally against these corporate interests. As Canada begins its crackdown to improve consumer health, we Americans must press our government and elected officials to follow suit, instituting warning labels on products that contain talc and demanding that companies put people before profits.