What's the tie between talc and cancer?

Story highlights

  • Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay another settlement to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer
  • Both plaintiffs used the company's talcum body powder for decades
  • There are specific methods of using talc that are associated with certain risks

(HLNtv.com)Johnson & Johnson has suffered its second costly court defeat in less than three months over claims its talcum powder caused cancer. And many more cases are looming.

A jury in St. Louis awarded $55 million in damages to Gloria Ristesund, who used Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder for more than 35 years before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011.
    The case is alarming primarily for one simple fact: Talc, the substance that the victim's families argued caused their cancer, is found in several common household products. It's an additive in some cosmetics and body powders, including products marketed specifically for use on babies.
    Johnson & Johnson issued a statement, saying their products were safe for use.
    "Multiple scientific and regulatory reviews have determined that talc is safe for use in cosmetic products and the labeling on Johnson's Baby Powder is appropriate," Carol Goodrich, a spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson Consumer, said.
    The verdicts have sparked new-found concern over the safety of talc-containing products in the home.

    Is talc safe to use?

    Health organizations are soft on whether talc poses a definite danger to consumers, but there are specific methods of using talc that are associated with certain risks. The CDC does not list any physical or chemical dangers for talc, but does note to avoid inhalation.
    "This substance may have effects on the lungs, resulting in talc pneumoconiosis," the International Chemical Safety Card for talc reads.
    Talc aspiration is the chief reason some pediatricians recommend against using baby powder on actual babies. As far back as the 1960s, literature from the American Academy of Pediatrics has advised against using baby powder containing talc due to aspiration risks.

    Can talc cause cancer?

    According to the American Cancer