The effects of talcum powder on lungs include difficulty breathing, decreased lung function, lung scarring, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, mesothelioma, bronchial cancer, and lung cancer. Talcum powder is made from talc, a naturally occurring mineral that is often contaminated with asbestos, a substance that is proven to cause cancer and pulmonary diseases when inhaled.
Asbestos was only banned in consumer products that used talc, such as baby powder, in 1973. In the following years, however, it was revealed that many talc-based cosmetics still contained asbestos fibers, which are microscopic and cannot be entirely removed by the refining process that talcum undergoes.
This prompted tens of thousands of people to file a talcum powder lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. Most of these cases were filed by women who developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s talcum powder products in their genital area. Other forms of cancer that were mentioned in talcum powder lawsuits include uterine cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in the linings of the lungs or abdomen.
Read on to learn more about the dangers of talcum powder on the lungs and other diseases linked to its use.
Can breathing in talcum powder cause cancer?
Yes, breathing in asbestos-contaminated talcum powder in large amounts can potentially lead to cancer. Inhaling fine talc particles means that they could get lodged inside the lung. Over time, the cumulative effect associated with talc inhalation is chronic lung irritation, which, in turn, can lead to cancer.
Moreover, studies focused on talc miners and millers found that there is an increased risk of lung cancer and other respiratory problems in this particular population due to talc inhalation. Other observational studies also found the same increased risk of lung cancer in people who work with raw talc whether the mineral contained asbestos fibers or not.
According to experts, this may be due to the potential of talc to cause inflammation when inhaled, which can occur regardless of asbestos content.
Does talcum powder cause mesothelioma?
Yes, talcum powder that is contaminated with asbestos may cause mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue that lines the inside of many internal organs in the body, such as the lungs, heart, abdomen, and testicles. This type of cancer is most frequently linked to asbestos exposure.
Unfortunately, it can take decades before mesothelioma develops as a result of repeated and long-term exposure to asbestos. Most of the time, talc miners and millers who have been exposed to dangerous amounts of asbestos in the past already have no way of knowing that the cancer they have developed resulted from occupational exposure to the harmful mineral. This also means that mesothelioma is not diagnosed until it is already in an advanced stage, which presents more challenges for treatment.
While lung cancer develops inside the lungs, mesothelioma only affects the tissues surrounding the organ. But this does not make it any less dangerous than lung cancer. In fact, what makes it so deadly is its long latency period, which is the amount of time that passes between exposure to the cause of the disease and when symptoms are first apparent.
Exposure to asbestos is pretty much the only way to develop mesothelioma. And while it can also affect other organs such as the abdomen, heart, and the testicles, around 80% of reported cases involve the lungs. Symptoms of mesothelioma include trouble breathing, chest pain, shortness of breath, chronic cough, dry cough, and pleural effusion or fluid buildup around the lungs.
What other health effects are associated with talcum powder?
Regulatory agencies and various studies often link talc powder to mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. However, the mineral can also increase one’s risk for developing other diseases. Other health effects that are associated with talcum powder are listed below.
- Cervical cancer
- Uterine cancer
- Pulmonary talcosis
- Lung cancer
- Throat cancer
- Pulmonary fibrosis
Research is still ongoing on the link between talcum powder use and other forms of cancer. Some research showed a slightly increased uterine cancer risk in menopausal women who use talc powder. Other studies also explored the link between talc and stomach cancer and found that more evidence is needed to prove a causal relation.
Which products contain talcum powder?
Because of its ability to absorb moisture and ease friction, talc is a popular ingredient in a wide variety of products, including cosmetics, ceramic, paint, rubber, pills, and toys, to name a few.
However, it has received a lot of attention with its long history of usage in the cosmetic industry. In particular, it has come under increased scrutiny for its link to cancer. Among cosmetic products, talc is commonly used in baby powders, facial powders, eye shadow, soap, and toothpaste, among several others.
For the past several years, however, its use as a primary ingredient in Johnson & Johnson baby powder rang the hazard bells for many consumers. Several class action lawsuits filed against the talcum powder manufacturer contend that longtime use of the product for feminine hygiene resulted in the development of ovarian cancer in many plaintiffs.
Victims of the product also allege that Johnson & Johnson knew about the dangers associated with talcum for several decades already. However, the company has failed to adequately warn the public about the risks of talcum powder use, particularly in the genital area. As to why a pharmaceutical giant would hide these adverse effects remains a mystery to many. But one thing is for sure: the company continues to rake in big profits from its potentially dangerous products as we speak.
What should you do if you suspect you developed an illness from using talcum powder?
If you or your loved one suspect that you have developed lung disease, lung cancer, or mesothelioma after years of using talcum powder, you should consult a doctor, first and foremost. If, in the unfortunate event that your doctor determined that your tumors indeed contain talc particles, you may have a case against talcum powder manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.
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