Most of the talc produced before 1972, Cutis (37:328) reports, was contaminated with some asbestos, which is not surprising since both of these substances are crystalline forms of magnesium silicate and often found side by side in the same mine.
Talc miners, like asbestos miners, have a higher than normal share of health problems, often develop scarring of the lungs, and have a three to four times normal incidence of lung cancer. Exposure to asbestos dust in the workplace often results in tumors in the chest and lungs as many as 20-30 years later.
It was hoped that cleaning up talc by removing its asbestos component would reduce the incidence of cancer, especially cancer of the lung, that had been associated with the use of both asbestos and talc products. Now, however, it has been discovered that women who employ talcum regularly as apart of their feminine hygiene routine are three times more likely than normal to develop cancer of the ovary. Talc has been found deeply embedded in the ovaries by traveling up the vagina and then through the uterus and Fallopian tubes.
Talc-containing powder is also often applied to babies’ bottoms whenever their diapers are changed. However, Pediatric Notes (9:106) reports, doctors are becoming increasingly wary of recommending these powders for the skin care of infants. Even when a talcum powder is guaranteed asbestos-free, it is safer to avoid it since one can never be sure of the other ingredients, and it is not a good idea for babies to be breathing dust, even if it is asbestos-free.
Because of the potential cancer risk, many doctors are now urging their patients to stop dusting themselves and their children with talcum powder.