Re: Corn starch or Talc

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Posted by JOHN CORSO on January 04, 2006 at 01:45:07:

In Reply to: Corn starch or Talc posted by Josh.C on January 03, 2006 at 23:58:29:

Is talcum powder safe?
by Dr. Robert Steele

Is it safe to use talcum powder on my baby?

The use of baby powder is rather common although many parents have changed to using ointments instead. Reasons most parents give for preferring powder is the feeling that it absorbs moisture better and prevents friction between the baby's bottom and nappy. However, after decades of use, powders have fallen out of favour in the medical community for a few reasons:
Talcum powder is usually made up of various combinations of zinc stearate, magnesium silicates, as well as other silicates which are finely ground. The size of particles is so small that they are both easily carried in the air like dust and can reach even the smallest areas of the lung.
There have been numerous reports of babies being involved in life-threatening incidents from inhaling the powder. A good number of these cases happened during a nappy change when adult supervision is usually very high. However, as every parent (including myself) knows, babies and toddlers can be awfully quick sometimes, so reaching for and spilling the powder is not such a difficult thing to do.
Many dermatologists feel that there isnít much advantage to powders compared to ointments when it comes to preventing and treating nappy rash.
So, clearly talc can cause pneumonia, inflammation (or swelling) of the airways of babies, and even death. What about cancer? When the link to asbestos and cancer came to light, it was noticed that a lot of the exposure to asbestos was accompanied by other things which could be inhaled, such as fibres and dust - including talc. However, a specific link to talc exposure and lung cancer has not been established. On the other hand, there has been some interesting research into a possible linking of talcum powder to ovarian cancer.
For a number of years now, epidemiologists (scientists who try to establish cause and effect relationships in diseases) have been interested in trying to find some link to the environment and ovarian cancer. Some of their focus has been on talcum powder because it is a product that is commonly used in the groin area by women. Several of these studies have shown a possible link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer while others have not. One interesting study published in 1996 was done by examining the ovaries of women who had had them removed for reasons other than ovarian cancer. In that study, talcum powder was found in all the ovaries including the ones from women who did not use talcum powder on themselves. This suggests that talcum powder could reach the ovaries of women who use talcum powder on their babies.

The relationship between talcum powder and cancer is by no means certain. It may turn out there is no relationship. On the other hand, it could be an important contributing factor in the development of ovarian cancer. More studies need to be done. Currently, there is absolutely no hard evidence to suggest talcum powder use causes cancer in babies. However, the immediate danger of inhaling baby powder is clear. Therefore, I would discourage its use.

Good luck to you


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