Every morning, people across America wake up, shower, and pick which beauty products to use that day. Many are unaware, however, that their cosmetic products may contain ingredients that are known carcinogens. One of the ingredients that fits this bill is talc, which is used mostly in makeup, but also in moisturizer, deodorant, supplements and pharmaceutical pills.
For years, research has tied talc to ovarian, uterine, lung, cervical, and mesothelioma cancer. Mesothelioma is a type of tumor that forms in the lungs, heart, and abdomen, making it painful to breathe. National Mesothelioma Awareness Day is on September 26. This year, we should take the opportunity to consider how products we use in our everyday lives could lead to this deadly type of cancer.
Talc is found in more than just powdery products like powder foundations. Since it absorbs oil, stopping other types of cosmetics from caking, and has translucent properties, it's often found in eyeliner, mascara, lipstick and even deodorant, lotion, and face masks. In fact, a study conducted by the FDA found that 20% of tested products contained talc.
Talc is often contaminated with asbestos, which the scientists have linked to mesothelioma. Most notably, Johnson & Johnson has faced thousands of lawsuits from customers claiming J&J baby powder and other talc-based products caused them to develop aggressive forms of cancers. An investigation by the New York Times revealed that Johnson & Johnson executives have known for years about the risks of asbestos in talc.
So why hasn’t there been more regulatory action against companies that make cosmetic products that make us sick? The problem is that instead of requiring companies to ensure that the products that they're selling are safe, the FDA simply asks them to self report and adhere to a voluntary “Consumer Commitment Code.” This is far too weak to protect public health from a product that could contain a known carcinogen.
As another National Mesothelioma Day comes and goes, consumers shouldn’t have to worry that the products they use every day might give them cancer. Consumers should review the ingredients in cosmetics and personal hygiene products that you or your family are considering purchasing and using. Words like talcum, talcum powder, cosmetic talc, or magnesium silicate are signs to avoid buying the product.
More importantly, the FDA should enact stricter policies to hold companies accountable for their products, and require more stringent testing, reporting and remediation. We shouldn’t have to risk our lives when we use makeup and personal care products.