The Trouble With Talc


We have all grown up with baby powders. As babies, we were smothered generously with it to absorb moisture from our diaper area. When we were kids, our mothers sprinkled baby powder on our backs to absorb sweat. And when we became teens, we graduated to using perfumed baby powder, colored pressed powder and heavy foundation in order to blot out excess oil from our faces. It may come as a surprise, then, that these powders are not really safe. These all contain the carcinogen, talc.

What’s wrong with talc?
Talc or talcum powder comes from talc rocks (yes, inedible, literal rocks)which are crushed, dried and finely milled. It is an inorganic mineral which, due to its absorbent property, has been used in cosmetics and other industrial-grade powders which involve soaking up of excess moisture. The danger of talc lies in its minute fibers which closely resemble the notorious carcinogen, asbestos. For several decades now, toxicology and carcinogenic studies have linked talcum powder to the development of lung, ovarian and other cancers.
Pediatricians discourage mothers from using baby powder on their babies for the reason that talcum causes respiratory problems such as asthma, allergies and pneumonia.
Gynecologists forbid women from applying powder on their vaginal area as it could cause ovarian cancer. Talc particles have been found lining the ovarian epithelial cells of ovarian cancer patients.
Despite warnings from researchers, however, the Food and Drug Administration still has not banned the use of talcum in cosmetics. Apparently, the decision is left to us, the consumers. Fortunately, there are healthier and safer substitutes for talcum powder.

What are the healthier substitutes for talc?
Safe substitutes for talcum powder are those which are food-grade or safe enough to eat. The next time you shop for loose baby powder, pressed powder or foundation, look for any of the following healthy and safe substitutes for talc.
• cornstarch
• rice powder
• corn powder
• oat powder
• chickpea powder
• powdered petals of flowers such as rose and calendula
• baking soda
• finely ground white or green clay
Many cosmetics which have the above healthy talc proxies provide excellent yet lightweight coverage and efficient oil and moisture-absorbing properties. They neither clog pores nor cause allergies. Best of all, they are nourishing and not at all cancer-causing.

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