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Does baby powder cause cancer?

As a Louisiana mother, you likely used baby powder on your children when they were little. You may even have gotten into the habit of using it on yourself. Baby powder and other talc-based powders not only do a great job of absorbing body moisture, but they also keep your skin feeling smooth. In addition, they usually have a very pleasant odor.

Ever since the 1970s, however, people have questioned talcum powder's possible carcinogenic properties. Talcum powder by definition contains talc, and talc contains small amounts of asbestos, a known carcinogen that can lead to mesothelioma, an aggressive lung cancer, and other cancers. At the time the red flags first went up, Johnson & Johnson baby powder was the top-selling powder in the country. It retains that position today despite numerous lawsuits against the company alleging that plaintiffs developed cancer, particularly ovarian cancer, after using J&J products.


Recently, a court hearing one of these lawsuits released 175,000 pages of internal Johnson & Johnson documents, some of which show that J&J knew about the asbestos in its baby powder and other talc-based products over 40 years ago, but nevertheless insisted that its products were asbestos-free. In addition, the documents show that J&J made every effort to refute, minimize and hide the results of scientific experiments showing that asbestos is a carcinogen.

One internal J&J memo from the 1970s is that of a high-level company official speculating about the amount of asbestos needed to cause cancer in a baby. Other documents show that J&J worked throughout the 1970s to thwart Food and Drug Administration attempts to initiate lower acceptable asbestos product limits. Still others show that J&J did everything possible to discredit any tests or testing agencies that found asbestos in its products.

To date, no one, governmental agency or otherwise, has determined what, if any, level of asbestos is safe for humans to inhale without leading eventually to the development of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers, illnesses and conditions. Consequently, this gives new meaning to the old adage of “buyer beware” for consumers such as you. Many people have stopped using any and all talc-based products and cosmetics as a health precaution.

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Lundy Lundy Soileau & South, LLP

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