Talcum powder – also known as baby powder – just seems like one of those household staples.
Made from a mineral called talc (which consists of magnesium, silicon and oxygen), the soft white powder has long been used as a way to dry up your baby’s bum after a nappy change, keep things smelling fresh and stop ‘em from getting a nappy rash.
But now the silky substance has hit headlines – it’s being touted as a possible cause for ovarian cancer.
Most recently, a woman in the US was awarded $417m from Johnson & Johnson, after claiming using their powder product down below for decades caused her ovarian cancer.
The BBC reports that the company currently faces thousands of cases just like this one, too.
There’s also long been concern that inhaling the powder is bad for a baby’s lungs – and can even build up and cause severe respiratory damage, which can prove to be fatal.
In light of all this new info, we’ve gotta ask: is it safe, and should you ever use it on your baby?
What the experts say
The experts? Well, they’re pretty much saying: no, it’s not safe.
A case report from 2011, published on US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, states that using talc has been used as an “incorrect part of traditional infant care” for too long – and that “its acute aspiration is a very dangerous condition in childhood.”
Meaning: inhaling this stuff can be really, really bad for your baby, and it’s best not to use it.
This study notes that accidents, though quite rare nowadays, often occur during the nappy change, when babies can inhale the powder, which lines the lungs and blocks them, making it difficult to breathe.
Additionally, the AAP (American Aacademy of Pediatrics) has spoken against using talc for many years for this very reason, publishing reports in the late 1960s and the early 1980s which do not recommend using them.
And while the NHS hasn’t written anything specific about this on their website, they do note that you shouldn’t use talcum powder if your little one gets a nappy rash, as it could irritate their skin.
What Johnson & Johnson say
When you think baby powder, you naturally think of Johnson & Johnson, so of course they’ve had something to say.
On their website, they deny that talc is unsafe to use, and also refute claims it causes ovarian cancer:
“The safety of talc is based on a long history of safe use and decades of research by independent researchers and scientific review boards,” it reads.
“Talc is accepted as safe for use in cosmetic and personal care products by the European Union, Canada and many other countries around the world, among them Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Israel, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia.
“The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), which identifies potential risk factors for many diseases, has not identified talc as a risk factor for ovarian cancer.
“The Nurses’ Health Study (2010) and the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Cohort (2014), the only two large-scale prospective studies looking at talc and ovarian cancer, found no causal relationship between talc and ovarian cancer.”
It’s worth noting here that they’ve said they’ll appeal the case we mentioned earlier, and other similar ones.
We certainly don’t want this to scare anyone – but we think it when it comes to babies, the real risk is that they could inhale it, and damage their lungs.
❌ For us, that makes it an obvious no-go ❌
As a result, we wouldn’t advise anyone to use it just to be safe, as there are plenty of other ways to keep your baby dry, and tackle nappy rashes.
Take a look at our 10 best nappy rash creams if you’re after an alternative…