Tal­cum pow­der can have harm­ful ef­fects

Fed­eral watch­dogs warn these self-care prod­ucts may af­fect lungs, pos­si­ble cause of ovar­ian cancer

The Sudbury Star - - LIFE - SH­ERYL UBELACKER THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

TORONTO — Con­sumers are be­ing warned to avoid in­hal­ing tal­cum pow­der or us­ing the prod­ucts on the fe­male gen­i­tal area, as ex­po­sure may cause po­ten­tially se­ri­ous res­pi­ra­tory problems and pos­si­bly ovar­ian cancer.

Baby pow­der should also be kept away from a child’s face to avoid in­hala­tion, Health Canada and En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Canada said Wed­nes­day in re­leas­ing a draft screen­ing as­sess­ment of prod­ucts con­tain­ing talc.

The draft as­sess­ment fo­cuses on the safety of talc in such self-care prod­ucts as cos­met­ics; baby, body, face and foot pow­ders; di­a­per and rash creams; and gen­i­tal an­tiper­spi­rants and de­odor­ants.

“When you in­hale talc, the fine talc par­ti­cles will get lodged in­side of the lung, and over time there’s a cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect as­so­ci­ated with that,” said David Morin, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the safe en­vi­ron­ment direc­torate.

In­hal­ing talc, a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring min­eral, can cause dif­fi­culty breath­ing, de­creased lung func­tion and pul­monary fi­bro­sis, a scar­ring of the lungs.

Prod­ucts con­tain­ing talc have also been linked to ovar­ian cancer in some women, and the Cana­dian Cancer So­ci­ety iden­ti­fies its use on the fe­male gen­i­tals as a pos­si­ble risk fac­tor for the ma­lig­nancy.

A num­ber of class ac­tion law­suits in the U.S. and Canada launched against Johnson & Johnson con­tend that long­time use of its tal­cum pow­der for fem­i­nine hy­giene re­sulted in the de­vel­op­ment of the plain­tiffs’ ovar­ian cancer. The cos­met­ics gi­ant has de­nied its prod­uct, which has been on the mar­ket since 1894, causes the dis­ease.

De­spite stud­ies suggest­ing a link, Health Canada has not man­dated that la­bels on talc-con­tain­ing prod­ucts carry spe­cific warn­ings about the pos­si­ble link with the de­vel­op­ment of ovar­ian cancer or the res­pi­ra­tory risks to adults who in­ad­ver­tently in­hale tal­cum pow­der par­ti­cles.

Ot­tawa only re­quires la­bel warn­ings re­lated to the use of loose talc pow­der for in­fants and chil­dren, said Tolga Yalkin, head of the con­sumer prod­ucts safety direc­torate.

“Es­sen­tially, those warn­ings are: ‘Keep out of reach of chil­dren’ and ‘Keep out of the way of a child’s face to avoid in­hala­tion, which can cause breath­ing problems,’ ” he said.

The Cana­dian Pae­di­atric So­ci­ety also ad­vises against the use of tal­cum pow­der — long used by par­ents to pre­vent di­a­per rash — for in­fants and ba­bies.

Muhan­nad Malas, tox­ics pro­gram man­ager for En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fence, said Health Canada’s screen­ing as­sess­ment shows that the ef­fects of talc can be “re­ally se­ri­ous.”

“What we want to see here is some reg­u­la­tory ac­tions in terms of ban­ning tal­cum pow­der in cos­met­ics and per­sonal care prod­ucts that pose sig­nif­i­cant risks to women and to chil­dren,” he said.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion is also call­ing for “much stronger health warn­ings that would clearly iden­tify the risks and clearly tell con­sumers why tal­cum is a prob­lem and why we should avoid ex­po­sure to it,” he said.

Yalkin said the gov­ern­ment is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of up­dat­ing its cos­metic in­gre­di­ent hotlist and pos­si­bly ex­pand­ing warn­ings on prod­uct la­bels, but any de­ci­sion would fol­low a 60-day con­sul­ta­tion process and the fi­nal ver­sion of the screen­ing as­sess­ment.

MATT ROURKE/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Baby pow­der is squeezed from its con­tainer. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment says breath­ing in loose tal­cum pow­der may cause po­ten­tially se­ri­ous res­pi­ra­tory ef­fects, while ex­po­sure in the vagi­nal area from cer­tain talc-con­tain­ing prod­ucts is a pos­si­ble cause of ovar­ian cancer.

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