Considered to be a miracle fiber, asbestos use skyrocketed as more and more people embraced the flame-resistant substance. A known carcinogen, asbestos can infect the body and cause a variety of cancers, including mesothelioma.
Many associate mesothelioma with construction tradesmen or steel workers, but its reach is much larger. The wives and mothers of the workers succumb to mesothelioma after laundering the clothes of their loved ones. While women battle second hand exposure, new evidence surfaced about a popular product leading to the disease as well.
Talcum powder, created from the mineral talc, is excellent at absorbing moisture and reducing friction. Primary cosmetic uses include baby, facial and body powders. Unfortunately, some talc in its natural form contains asbestos.
Certain cancers, including lung and ovarian, are associated with talcum powder. After proof of asbestos’ toxicity, many products made an effort to eliminate its use and by the 1970s all talcum powder used in the home was asbestos-free in the United States.
Even though asbestos isn’t found in talcum powder today, the risk remains for those exposed before the ban occurred. A recent study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health determined if the release of asbestos was a possibility when using the powder.
The study concluded when applied, the powder released asbestos fibers that are then inhaled. Repeated use of the talcum powder means multiple exposures to the carcinogen.
With a latency period that spans decades, mesothelioma may still affect many women who used this type of talcum powder before the asbestos was eliminated.
American Cancer Society. (2014). Talcum powder and cancer. [Link]
Fitzgerals, S., Gordon, R.E. & Millette J. (2014). Asbestos in commercial cosmetic talcum powder as a cause of mesothelioma in women. International Journal of Occupational Environmental Health. [Link]