The Toxic Truth About Talc

The Toxic Truth about Talc

As you may have heard, on February 22, 2016 Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $72 million in damages to the family of an Alabama woman who died from ovarian cancer which was linked to her life-long use of talc-based powders sold under Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower brands.

I remember working in the hospital years ago and many women patients would use baby powder to fight excess moisture and yeast. I don’t really remember ever hearing anyone advise against this practice.

In fact, I didn’t know how toxic it was until I made it my mission to weed out harmful chemicals in my personal care products and began researching the topic extensively.

When I posted about this story on social media earlier this week, I realized that many women are still not aware of the link between talc and ovarian cancer. In addition, most consumers assume that a product is safe if it is on the market. And the longer a product is on the market, the more trusted the product becomes.

In reality, Johnson & Johnson continued selling talc-based baby powder despite decades of research suggesting it’s link to ovarian cancer and despite formulating a corn-starch based version of their baby powder.

Before this week, if you had checked for product reviews of the classic talc-based Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder you would have found 5-star reviews that say things like, “I use this product everyday,” “Been using this product since I was a kid and it still works the same after decades,” and “Mommy Must Have …’If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.'”

This is sad and scary because there is evidence dating back to the 1970’s that links talc to cancer with everyday feminine hygiene use.

Numerous studies have found significant association between talc and the risk for ovarian cancer.¹ In addition to evidence that it is carcinogenic by itself, some studies suggest that it may have frequently been contaminated with asbestos, a very deadly carcinogen that is known to cause lung cancer.² Fortunately, most talc-based products used in the home since the 1970’s are purified to be asbestos free. Talc-based powders, however, will still cause respiratory problems if inhaled.

This situation really highlights the need to be a savvy consumer. You can not simply trust that every chemical or product on the market is safe.

Baby powder isn’t the only place to be wary of talc, it’s also found in many cosmetics and personal care products such as:

  • eye shadow
  • blush
  • foundation
  • concealers
  • bronzers
  • suncreen
  • deodorants and antiperspirants

A good resource for researching ingredients in your personal care products is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database.

The key takeaways:

  1. There is a significant association between talc and ovarian cancer.
  2. Avoid using talc-based products in the genital area (ex. underwear, pantyliners, etc.)
  3. If you must use a powder, you can try cornstarch (if you aren’t sensitive to corn).
  4. Know what’s in your personal care products and make sure they are safe.

What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments below.


  1. Cramer, D. W., Liberman, R. F., Titus-Ernstoff, L., Welch, W. R., Greenberg, E. R., Baron, J. A. and Harlow, B. L. (1999), Genital talc exposure and risk of ovarian cancer. Int. J. Cancer, 81: 351–356. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0215(19990505)81:3<351::AID-IJC7>3.0.CO;2-M
  2. Rohl, A. N. (1974). Asbestos in talc. Environmental Health Perspectives, 9, 129–132.
About Tiffany deSilva

Hi I'm Tiffany deSilva, MSW, CPC, CHC, Founder of BrightFire Living, LLC. I am a social worker, speaker, author, certified health, wellness and lifestyle coach, certified green living coach and toxic-free consultant. I am passionate about helping women like you to detox each area of your life, safeguard your family's health, and live life fully charged and completely lit up! I am on a mission to empower women and families who are managing food allergies, autoimmune disorders, and other modern chronic health conditions to live a safe, happy, and healthy life that truly lights your fire!

Feedback & Comments:

  1. So many people are unaware of the link between talc and ovarian cancer, thanks for sharing and creating more awareness around that. As well as, the reminders of how many other personal care products talc is in. Far to often I have found that people don’t read the labels of personal care products and this is a huge mistake, big corporations time and time again continue to show that profits are before health.

    • Tiffany deSilva says

      Thanks, Lisa! Yes, people don’t often think about reading labels when it comes to personal care products but it is just as important as reading food labels.

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