The facts on talcum powder safety

The Facts on
Talcum Powder Safety

What is talcum powder?

Talcum powder is the refined, powdery form of the softest mineral on earth: talc. Talc is an “inert” ingredient, meaning it does not generate a chemical reaction when ingested or used on the skin. People have taken advantage of its natural smoothness, safety and adsorbency since ancient Egyptian times.1

Talcum powder

Where does our talc come from?

Talc is found in rock deposits all over the planet and is mined like many other minerals. Only pharmaceutical grade talc is used in our baby powder.

How is talcum powder made?

Once it is taken from the earth, talc is partially crushed, sorted and assigned a grade. The talc ore that meets our standards is then milled to a powder, tested for particle size and confirmed to meet Johnson & Johnson’s purity requirements.

Talc is Safe

Talc Safety Step1

1Talc has been used for centuries.

It’s the softest mineral on earth, and has been used for a variety of applications dating back to ancient Egypt.2

Talc Safety Step2

2Talc is more common than you think.

It’s in the foods we eat, including chewing gum, rice and olive oil, and many products we use every day (like makeup, soap and antiperspirant.)1,2,3

Talc Safety Step3

3Talc is safe.

Research, clinical evidence and nearly 40 years of studies by independent medical experts around the world continue to support the safety of talc.

Talc Safety Step4

4Talc has been studied by independent authorities around the world.

Government and non-governmental agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel have all investigated the potential harmfulness of talc and determined that talc is safe.

Talc Safety Step5

5Talc does not cause cancer.

The National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query Editorial Board concluded that the weight of evidence does not support an association between perineal talc exposure and increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Decades of Safety

We continue to use talc in our products because decades of science have reaffirmed its safety. Your trust in Johnson’s Baby Products and your confidence using them every day is a huge responsibility – that’s why we only use ingredients that are deemed safe to use by the latest science.

Research, clinical evidence and nearly 40 years of studies by medical experts around the world continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc. Health authorities around the world have reviewed the data on talc, and it is used widely across the globe.

Even with talc’s long history of safe use in consumer products, some have questioned whether using talcum powder can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer. Recently, there have been questions raised as to whether the talc used in consumer products is contaminated with asbestos. The weight of the science does not support any claim that our talc products cause cancer.

We take any questions about our product’s safety seriously and as a result have dug deep into the evidence on talc.

Thousands of tests repeatedly confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos. Our talc comes from ore sources confirmed to meet our stringent specifications. Not only do we and our suppliers routinely test to ensure our talc does not contain asbestos, our talc has also been tested and confirmed to be asbestos-free by a range of independent laboratories and universities, including the FDA, Harvard School of Public Health, and Mount Sinai Hospital.

Johnson Lawsuit

You’ve probably read news stories about lawsuits claiming Johnson’s Baby Powder can cause ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.

Johnson’s uses only pure, pharmaceutical grade talc. We test every lot to ensure it. But don’t take our word for it. Explore the facts and make up your own mind.

Learn More

Explore the Science

Studies on Talc and Ovarian Cancer

The Nurses’ Health Study

The Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) is the largest women’s health study ever conducted. This U.S. government-funded cohort study has looked into risk factors for major chronic diseases in women since 1976. Among many other breakthroughs, research from the NHS helped expose the link between smoking and heart diseases in women, and led to the development of hormonal therapies for breast cancer treatment.

The talc-use portion of the NHS included 78,630 women who were followed for as long as 24 years in total.4,5 They were asked whether they had ever used talcum powder on their genital area or on sanitary napkins. About 40 percent of women answered yes and were included in the talc-user group.4,5

The study data showed no increase in the overall rate of ovarian cancer among the talc users, regardless of how often they used talc. There was no difference in the rate of ovarian cancer among women who used the powder directly on their bodies or on sanitary products.4,5

24 year study
of 78,630 women
31,789 used talc

Showed no
overall increase

in the risk of ovarian cancer

The Nurses Health Study

The Women’s Health Initiative Study

The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) was established by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in 1991 to study the health of postmenopausal women. Among the many issues this cohort study investigated were the link between hormone therapy and breast cancer, and the effects of diet on cancer and heart disease. The talc-use portion of the WHI included 61,576 women, 53 percent of whom said they have used powder on their genitals, sanitary napkins or diaphragms, some for over 20 years. The women in this study were followed between 1993 and 2012.

The study data showed no increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who used talcum powder. There was also no increase in risk among women who used powder for longer periods of time.6

12 year study
of 61,576 women
32,219 used talc

Showed no
overall increase

in the risk of ovarian cancer

The Women's Health Initiative Study

The Sister Study

The Sister Study, conducted from 2003-2009 with the support of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences was a landmark research effort to find the causes of breast cancer. The study also included an analysis among participants to investigate associations between talc use, douching and ovarian cancer.

The study enrolled 41,654 women in the United States and Puerto Rico aged 35 to 74 years who had a full or half sister who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and were asked about talc use over the prior 12 months. Over the course of the study, no association was found between perineal talc use and subsequent diagnosis of ovarian cancer.7 While douching was more common among talc users, it was found that douching, but not talc, was associated with the increased risk of ovarian cancer during the Sister Study.7

6 year study
of 41,654 women
5,735 used talc

Showed no
overall increase

in the risk of ovarian cancer

The Sister Study

Other Studies

A statistical association between ovarian cancer and powder users is not found in large, prospective studies, although some, but not all, case-control studies do indicate a slight statistical association. Case-control studies are studies where groups of people with a history of a specific disease are asked questions about different possible risk factors. These risk factors can include use of certain products in their past. One potential reason that some have found slight statistical associations is the potential for an overestimation of the true association due to “recall bias.” Recall bias is when people with a disease are more likely to overestimate their exposure to these risk factors than people without that disease. In these studies, women who know they have ovarian cancer will try hard to remember anything that might be important to explain why they got this terrible disease, which can artificially make it appear that women with cancer used more talcum powder.8

Studies of Talc and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, of which there are several types. Asbestos exposure has been linked to certain types of mesothelioma. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that is found in the environment, and small quantities of its fibers are all around us – in the air we breathe, in drinking water, soil and some foods.

There are no sound scientific studies indicating that inhalation of cosmetic talc causes mesothelioma.

Studies of Miners & Millers

Studies of thousands of people who were exposed to talc on a daily basis—through their work mining and milling talc powder, show that none developed mesothelioma. In 1976, scientists initiated a study of miners and millers of an Italian cosmetic talc mine used by Johnson & Johnson. This study compared those workers employed between 1921 to 1950 to a population from a nearby town of Alba, Italy. That study found zero cases of mesothelioma.

In 1979, the scientists updated the study using new statistical data, and compared the miners and millers who worked between 1946 to 1974 to national Italian population data. Still, zero miners and millers developed mesothelioma. This study was updated again in 2003, then in 2017, and continues to demonstrate that none of the miners or millers developed mesothelioma.

Similar studies of miners and millers have been conducted on other cosmetic talc mining operations. A study of Vermont miners and millers conducted by NIOSH and OSHA concluded that none of the miners and millers developed mesothelioma. Studies of miners and millers who worked in cosmetic talc deposits in Norway, Austria and France also show that none of those talc workers developed mesothelioma.

1,992 miners
and millers

Exposed to talc daily
Studied over  38  years

Found 0 cases of
mesothelioma

Studies of Miners & Millers

Talc is usedto reduce fluid accumulation
in lungs

A medical procedure called pleurodesis helps lungs stick to the chest wall to keep collapsed lungs inflated or prevent fluid from accumulating around the lung.

In some cases, talc is injected directly into the lining of the lungs to prevent fluid accumulation. Large-scale reports of patients show that out of hundreds of patients who had this procedure done over dozens of years, there have been no cases of mesothelioma.

More
than
 300  patients
studied over
14-40  years

Found 0 cases of
mesothelioma

References

  1. Industrial Minerals Association. “What is Talc.”
    http://www.ima-na.org/?page=what_is_talc
  2. EARTH magazine. Mineral Resource of the Month.
    http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/mineral-resource-month-talc
  3. Geology.com. Talc: The Softest Mineral.
    http://geology.com/minerals/talc.shtml
  4. Gertig, Prospective Study of Talc Use and Ovarian Cancer, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Nurses Health Study.
    http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/92/3/249.full
  5. Gates, Risk Factors for Epithelial Ovarian Cancer by Histologic Subtype, American Journal of Epidemiology.
    http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/171/1/45.full
  6. Houghton, Perineal Powder Use and Risk of Ovarian Cancer, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Women’s Health Initiative.
    http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/106/9/dju208.full
  7. Gonzalez, Douching, Talc Use and Risk of Ovarian Cancer, Epidemiology.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27327020
  8. Cancer.org. Talcum Powder and Cancer.
    http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/talcum-powder-and-cancer
Back to top