10 Things to Know About Baby Powder

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You may have seen baby powder in the news recently. Or you might be wondering, what’s the big deal about baby powder anyway? Most of us haven’t thought twice about the trusty bottle in the back of our medicine cabinets. With so much new information out there, here are the ten things you need to know.

Baby powder was first introduced in 1894

The gentle powder was marketed to mothers as a way to prevent diaper rash and promote soft skin. Johnson & Johnson introduced the product and most people still recognize the iconic white bottle. However, there are now hundreds of baby powder products on the market to choose from.

It’s not just for diaper rash

Besides preventing diaper rash, baby powder can be used as a deodorant, shoe freshener and dry shampoo. It helps prepare sensitive skin before waxing, prevents chafing and can even get sand off clothes and wet skin. It’s no surprise most American households have a bottle of baby powder laying around.

Most baby powders are made of talcum powder

Talcum powder comes from a mineral called talc. Talc is naturally occurring and is made of magnesium, silicon and oxygen. Talc has been used for cosmetic purposes since Ancient Egypt, and today it also has industrial uses such as paper making, rubber manufacturing, ceramics, paint thickening and more.

You can go natural

You can buy natural baby powders, or make your own by mixing high quality cornstarch or arrowroot powder with clay powder, which can be found at most grocery and health-food stores. You can even add drops of essential oils like chamomile and lavender for additional skin-calming properties and fragrance.

Some mines where talc is found also contain asbestos

While talc is a completely safe mineral, asbestos is a known carcinogen. During the mining process, it is possible for talc to become contaminated with asbestos. The discovery of trace amounts of asbestos in talc-based baby powder first occurred in 1957.

Baby powder may or may not cause cancer

The American Cancer Society states that it cannot currently conclude whether baby powder causes cancer. Talc itself does not cause cancer, but the rare presence of trace amounts of asbestos in baby powders is currently being investigated. Many of the studies about baby powder’s potential link to cancer find mixed results, with some studies reporting no significant link and others reporting a possible link that needs further investigation.

There are recent lawsuits involving baby powder

Thousands of women have claimed that the small amounts of asbestos sometimes found in baby powder caused them to develop cancer over years of use. 22 women have won lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, and the company has paid over $500 million in actual damages and $1.62 billion in punitive damages. Investigations found that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that their baby powders could contain trace amounts of asbestos and failed to inform the public.

Johnson & Johnson recalled their talc-based powder in May 2020

The baby powder giant voluntarily recalled their talc-based product in North America and Canada in response to concerns about cancer-causing asbestos. In July 2020, 170 nonprofits from 51 countries called for a global product recall of talc-based baby powder. The company maintains that their talc-based product is safe to use, and they will continue to sell cornstarch-based baby powder in North America and Canada.

Baby powder can cause respiratory problems

Any powder inhaled by babies under the age of three months, whose lungs are still developing, can be potentially dangerous. The tiny particles can get into your baby’s lungs and cause respiratory problems. It’s recommended to use baby powder sparingly around your baby’s face, and doctors say regular changing is the best way to prevent diaper rash.

New research is ongoing

The Food and Drug Administration is currently conducting a study throughout 2020 to test 50 talc-based baby powders for asbestos contamination. You can read their previous findings and reports about baby powder at fda.gov. In January 2020, the largest conducted study on baby powder and ovarian cancer did not find a link between the two. And while many other studies have also not found evidence that baby powder causes cancer, anyone wanting to avoid talc-based powders until more research is published can opt for a cornstarch-based baby powder.


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