Baby powder. Who would think a seemingly innocuous product would be the cause of such a large amount of controversy? high-profile court cases and multi-million dollar verdicts later talc-containing baby powder increases the risk for cancer is becoming only more In December, released a report alleging that Johnson & Johnson covered the presence of asbestos in the talc included in their baby powder products for decades, possibly providing a mechanism by which a series of cancer cases could be traced back to the use of the powder. And a New York Times
So what do these revelations mean for consumers?  The Reuters investigation alleges that Johnson & Johnson knew that some of their talc were contaminated long after they claimed it was asbestos-free. Johnson & Johnson's talc products turn up positive results for small amounts of asbestos as early as 1957. But, the investigations never stop, the company never revealed the presence of asbestos in its talc to the public.
However, Johnson & Johnson firmly denies that the powder was contaminated. Reuters articles cited asbestos-contaminated talc in samples from 1984, 1985, and 1986, but those samples (sourced from Windsor Minerals) were from "three California talc properties that we sourced for industrial talc use-not cosmetic. WSI and grade TC-700 have never been associated with Vermont, where we sourced our cosmetic talc in the 1980s, "Ernie W. Knewitz, vice president of media relations at Johnson & Johnson, tells SELF. "Thousands of tests" and to two statements "Thousands of tests" ] and two advertisements defending its products.
The company also notes that it has fully cooperated with the FDA and other global regulators when questions have arisen. According to one of the statements from J & J the New York Times report "ignores independent, peer-reviewed studies of thousands of women and more than 1,000 men by the nation's foremost research institutions found that our talc does not cause cancer or asbestos-related disease, while instead pointing to studies' conducted in the past few years by plaintiffs' lawyers' to support their premise. "
Talc is not thought to be dangerous, But that could change if it were contaminated with asbestos.
Scientists have been skeptical of the idea that exposure to cancer has increased.
Asbestos naturally occurs as bundles of fibers made up of minerals, according to the American Cancer Society These fibers can come i n curly or straight forms, and have been used in recent years in insulation, roof shingles, some types of cement, and brake parts, among other products. Asbestos can be carcinogenic.
The largest risk is due to cancer, as the asbestos is inhaled and can lead to cancer development, potentially due to a process involving inflammation and cell death . Asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor for mesothelioma a rare form of cancer that affects the thin layer of tissue.
Because the talc powder is so a mineral, some can be contaminated with asbestos. The talc that is used in human cosmetic products is, in theory, free from asbestos contamination since the 1970s, when stricter testing and monitoring of talc started the following is a report of asbestos in 10 of 19 tested talc products. [It should be noted that the Johnson & Johnson products tested in that study did not show evidence of asbestos.]
But the claim that all talc products have been asbestos-free since this time has come under scrutiny in the latest  Reuters investigation and makes the risk calculus much more complicated. Basically, if it's true that some cosmetic talc products have been contaminated with asbestos,
Still, the last 30 years of research have not been conclusive.
If asbestos has remained in talcum powder in recent decades, this could provide an alternative mechanism for carcinogenesis. That said, epidemiological studies from the past 30 years examining talcum powder use and cancer have failed to conclusively demonstrate at increased risk. The research that has linked powder to ovarian cancer is based on "shaky data," Mary Jane Minkin MD, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University, previously told SELF.
Looking at the Nurses' Health Study, Over 78,000 women who used talc-containing products were examined for risk of ovarian cancer. A small increased risk was seen for the purpose of the use of the talc users and invasive serous ovarian cancer, but no increase was demonstrated cancer). A case-control study with fewer women thus found a small increased risk only in some cancer types (again, including invasive serous tumors); risk to seemed dependent on the use of hormone therapy. A study of over 61,000 women in the Women's Health Study found no increased risk .
There are fewer studies examining mesothelioma risk due to talcum powder. One looked at data from three studies of individuals who were exposed via their occupation as talc miners, and found "no epidemiological evidence to support the hypothesis that is due to the development of pleural mesothelioma."
Johnson & Johnson is correct that most studies contradict the claims against them. For instance, recent study examining the presence of asbestos in talcum products from the 1940s to 1970s found no trace of asbestos in the tested products, suggesting that if contamination existed, it was rare. A simulation of exposure to talc products from the 1960s and 1970s found "no appreciable exposure or risk of asbestos-related disease" in their study. And research done by the FDA from 2009-2010 also found no asbestos in samples both from talc suppliers and from talc-containing product purchased in retail stores. Though several high-profile lawsuits have suggested a link between cancer and cancer use,
The FDA did not confirm that it looked into the allegations. "The FDA takes the possible presence of asbestos in cosmetics very seriously. The FDA seeks to investigate reports on the presence of asbestos in talcum powder and take appropriate action to protect consumers. "
" American consumers are safe, "the FDA continued. "Asbestos in talc samples. Specifically, the work group is focusing its efforts on developing better methods of identification and detection of asbestos as a contaminants in talc. As we move forward in this initiative we want to engage with stakeholders and provide opportunities for public input.
One issue is that it is difficult to tease out the risks associated with the same with each other asbestos, Daniel Cramer, MD, at ovarian cancer epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, tells SELF. Many studies examining the use and development of cancer are limited to "poor detail on the degree of exposure," and this is even worse past between different products).
"The questions are raised recently at what point we were sure asbestos contamination issues, "Dr. Minkin told SELF when contacted again for this article. "The pure talc is not an issue, and does not raise the risk of ovarian cancer.
So, how worried should you be?
For now, if you have any concerns about talcum powder, simply do not use it. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends against the use of talcum powders in the vaginal area even though they note that "there is no medical consensus that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer."
Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages use of baby powder noting that "If inhaled, talcum-containing powders can cause respiratory distress and breathing problems in babies." Although the AAP
Ultimately, the decision to use talc.
Ultimately, the decision to use talc is up to you. But if you're at all, you can talk through it with your doctor and know that you have plenty of other options.