The news certainly won’t make the lawyers at Johnson and Johnson* any happier, but the latest research findings should definitely serve as a public health warning: New case study findings have strengthened the link between talcum powder, asbestos** (which can be co-mingled with talc due to mining processes) and mesothelioma–a deadly cancer of the lining of organs (most often occurring in the lining around the lungs or the abdomen).
*Last week, Johnson & Johnson recalled a shipment of baby powder after U.S. authorities found it had been contaminated with asbestos.
**Asbestos is the main risk factor for mesothelioma. There is no way to remove asbestos from talc, so the only way to protect consumers is to test what’s coming out of the mine.
The new report has revealed that a group of 33 people developed mesothelioma** after long-term use of talcum powder and no exposure to other sources of asbestos. The case study subjects were all people who used talcum powder on a daily basis for many years and all contracted mesothelioma. It is believed that victims inhaled asbestos while applying the talcum powder, which can make its way into the lining around the lungs and abdomen, where it causes DNA damage that triggers cancer.
The researchers determined that talcum powder use was the only possible source of asbestos exposure among all 33 cases. Further, a closer examination of six specific cases revealed the presence of asbestos in their tissues after decades-long use of talcum powder.
“They all had the same type of asbestos that is seen in talc in their tissues and in their mesothelioma. The type of asbestos we found is not the type typically seen in commercial applications. It’s the type of asbestos you’d find in talc.”
-Dr. Jacqueline Moline, Professor, Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research
Journal reference: Moline, J., et al., Mesothelioma Associated with the Use of Cosmetic Talc,Oct. 17, 2019, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, DOI: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001723. PMID: 31609780