November 6, 2014 — Asbestos in a popular talcum body-powder product has been linked to a case of mesothelioma in a study published by the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health in October.
Talcum powder is made from magnesium silicate, a mineral that contains asbestos in its natural form. In the 1970s, the FDA banned asbestos in consumer products because it is a known carcinogen.
Since then, a number of studies have shown that talc may increase the risk of cancer, including ovarian cancer when women use talc in the genital area. This led researchers to investigate whether talc increases a person’s risk of mesothelioma, a rare and deadly lung cancer linked to asbestos.
Scientists from three different laboratories worked for over a year to track asbestos-containing talc from the mines to a popular body-powder product. The product was used for years by a woman who died of asbestos-induced mesothelioma. Asbestos-contaminated talc was found in her lung tissue.
The researchers also built an elaborate simulated bathroom environment to test the amount of exposure a person would receive while using a powder-puff or shake container to apply talcum. The tests repeatedly showed that the practice released high levels of inhalable asbestos.
The researchers warned:
“The inhalation of talc may cause lung fibrosis in the form of granulomatose nodules called talcosis. Exposure to talc has also been suggested as a causative factor in the development of ovarian carcinomas, gynecological tumors, and mesothelioma.”
Mesothelioma causes rapidly growing tumors in the outer lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma), the abdominal cavity (peritoneal mesothelioma), and sometimes the sac around the heart (pericardial mesothelioma). Symptoms include chest pain, chronic cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, and more.
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