Health Canada Links Talcum Powder To Ovarian Cancer, Lung Damage Risk

by NCN Health And Science Team Posted on December 6th, 2018

Ottawa, Canada : After an investigation, Health Canada has determined that talc — a common ingredient in baby powder, some cosmetics and household products — might be harmful to human health.

In an announcement Wednesday, the department said that it was considering measures to restrict the use of talc in cosmetics, natural health products and non-prescription drugs.

Specifically, the government is warning that inhaling loose talc powders can damage the lungs. Using products containing talc in the female genital area, like baby powder, diaper creams and bath bombs, is a possible cause of ovarian cancer, the department said.

Health Canada’s draft assessment did not find that ingesting talc in food or drugs or using it in pressed powder cosmetics like eyeshadows and blushes was harmful.

This Health Canada assessment was a draft and is currently open to comments. The government is working on a final assessment. If the department confirms its conclusion, it will consider restricting talc’s use.

Canadians who are concerned about using talc should check their products’ ingredients and avoid loose powder or using it in the female genital area.

In July, cosmetics manufacturer Johnson & Johnson had to pay 22 women nearly $4.7 billion in a lawsuit linking baby powder to ovarian cancer, one of several recent lawsuits involving baby powder

Below is the announcement by health Canada.

Talc – Potential Risk of Lung Effects and Ovarian Cancer

Audiences

Healthcare professionals including pharmacists, nurses, pediatricians, and family physicians

Key messages

  • Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada’s draft screening assessment of talc proposes that:
    • breathing in loose talc powder may cause lung effects, such as coughing, trouble breathing, decreased lung function and fibrosis; and
    • exposure to the perineal area from the use of certain products containing talc is a possible cause of ovarian cancer.
  • On December 5, 2018, the draft screening assessment report was published on Health Canada’s website.
  • This draft assessment focuses on the safety of talc in self-care products such as cosmetics, natural health products, and non-prescription drugs (e.g., baby, body, face and foot powders; diaper and rash creams; genital antiperspirants and deodorants; body wipes and bath bombs).
  • The draft screening assessment did not identify human health risks from oral talc exposures (e.g., oral exposure from tablet preparations), other dermal exposures (non-perineal), or inhalation exposures from pressed talc powder products.
  • Healthcare professionals are advised to remind patients to:
    • avoid inhaling loose talc powders;
    • avoid female genital exposure to products containing talc;
    • keep baby powder away from a child’s face to avoid inhalation;
    • check product labels for talc and choose talc-free alternatives if concerned.
  • Healthcare professionals are invited to comment on the draft screening assessment during the Canada Gazette 60-day public comment period ending on February 6, 2019.
  • Should the final screening assessment confirm that talc is harmful to human health, the Government will consider various tools to manage the risk.

Issue

The draft screening assessment report, which was jointly conducted by Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada, proposes that inhaling loose talc powders and exposure to the female genital area from the use of certain products containing talc may be harmful to human health.

Products affected

Cosmetics, natural health products, and non-prescription drugs containing talc as an ingredient in the form of loose powders (face, body, baby and foot powders) and products used in the perineal region (body powder, baby powder, diaper and rash creams, genital antiperspirants and deodorants, body wipes and bath bombs).

Background information

Talc is a naturally-occurring mineral used as an ingredient in a wide variety of products including cosmetics, natural health products, and non-prescription drugs.

Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada have conducted a joint draft scientific screening assessment of talc, under the Chemicals Management Plan, focusing on certain cosmetics, natural health products, and non-prescription drugs.

Based on this draft assessment, current scientific evidence indicates that inhalation exposure to loose powder products containing talc such as baby, body, face and foot powders may cause non-cancerous lung effects such as coughing, breathing difficulties, and decreased lung function. When inhaled, talc particles can be difficult to clear, accumulating as exposures continue, and can potentially lead to fibrosis. Talc products that do not generate a dust cloud, such as pressed powders, are not of concern for lung effects.

The draft assessment also identified talc as a possible cause of ovarian cancer when there is exposure to or use in the female genital area. The Canadian Cancer Society identifies talc use on the genitals as a possible risk factor for ovarian cancer. Several published meta-analyses consistently reported a small but positive association with ovarian cancer and perineal talc use.

The draft screening assessment did not identify any critical health effects for talc through oral exposure, for example, talc in drugs, or dermal (non-perineal) routes of exposure.

The draft screening assessment and the risk management scope are now available on Health Canada’s web site. The risk management scope proposes the possible risk management options to help reduce Canadians exposure to talc. The Government of Canada will also publish the Draft Screening Assessment for Talc on December 8, 2018 in the Canada Gazette. The public is invited to comment on this report, during the 60-day public comment period ending on February 6, 2019.  After the consultation period, a final screening assessment and risk management approach will be developed, taking into consideration comments and new evidence received.

Should the final screening assessment confirm that talc in certain products is harmful to human health, the government will take action to manage the risks identified.

Who is affected

Information for consumers

Talc is a naturally-occurring mineral used as an ingredient in a wide variety of products.

The Government of Canada has conducted a draft screening assessment of the potential health risks of talc. This draft assessment focuses mainly on the safety of talc in self-care products such as cosmetics, natural health products, and non-prescription drugs.

The draft assessment proposes that:

  • breathing in loose talc powder may be harmful to the lungs
  • using products containing talc in the female genital area is a possible cause of ovarian cancer

The assessment does not suggest that there is a health risk when taken by mouth (e.g. prescription drugs) or of talc contact with the skin (excluding the female genital area).

Canadians concerned about their exposure to talc can check the ingredient list on product labels and avoid using loose talc powders that may be inhaled and products containing talc in the female genital area.

If parents and caregivers are concerned about current or previous use of products containing talc on their children, they should consult their healthcare professional.

Patients using products containing talc should inform their healthcare professional if they experience any side effects.

Information for healthcare professionals

Healthcare professionals are advised to remind patients to:

  • avoid inhaling loose talc powders;
  • avoid using products containing talc in the female genital area;
  • keep baby powder away from a child’s face to avoid inhalation;
  • check the ingredient list on product labels for talc and choose a talc-free alternative if concerned.

Healthcare professionals are also reminded that diaper rash products should not be used on broken skin.

Action taken by Health Canada

Health Canada is communicating this important safety information to healthcare professionals and Canadians via the Recalls and Safety Alerts Database on the Healthy Canadians Web Site. This communication will be further distributed through the MedEffect™ e-Notice email notification system.

Report health or safety concerns

Managing marketed health product-related side effects depends on health care professionals and consumers reporting them. Any case of serious or unexpected side effects in patients using products that contain talc should be reported to Health Canada.

You can report any suspected adverse reactions associated with the use of health products to Health Canada by:

  • Calling toll-free at 1-866-234-2345; or
  • Visiting MedEffect Canada’s Web page on Adverse Reaction Reporting for information on how to report online, by mail or by fax.

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NCN Health And Science Team

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