Is it Time to Ditch the Baby Powder?
Problems with Baby Powder
Okay, so we know talc in baby powder has a history of being a problem.
1. Talc and Asbestos
Talc in its natural form often contains asbestos, which is known to cause cancer in and around the lungs when inhaled. According to the American Cancer Society, talc-based consumer products have been asbestos free since the 1970s, but there is still concern over the health of talc miners who were exposed to natural talc fibers containing asbestos through their work.
2. Dangers of Inhalation
Baby powder used to be (and still is) made with talc. So initially, pediatricians recommended against its use because babies can inhale the powder, and talc powder inhalation is bad for the lungs. But some pediatricians still recommend against its use when talc is replaced with cornstarch. That’s because cornstarch-based powder can also be harmful to babies, especially those with heart disease or asthma, when inhaled.
3. Talc and Ovarian Cancer
Talc is harmful to the reproductive system as well as the lungs. Johnson & Johnson (J&J) advertised talc powder as a feminine hygiene product for decades. Specifically, J&J encouraged its female customers to dust their genitals with talc powder daily. Scientific studies are piling up, unfortunately, evidencing that genital dusting with talc powder is extremely dangerous and significantly increases users’ risk of developing ovarian cancer. The worst part of all this is that J&J has known for many years that talcum powder was dangerous for genital dusting but kept selling talc-containing baby powder for that purpose anyway.
What becomes the next logical move for baby powder suppliers? Take talc out of the equation (unless you’re J&J, of course).
Jessica Alba’s Honest Co. Baby Powder Voluntarily Recalled
Honest Co.’s talc-free baby powder is advertised as a “natural [talc-free] dusting product with probiotics”. Although talc had been taken out of the equation, the product has nonetheless been voluntarily recalled due to possible contamination with microorganisms causing skin and eye infections for consumers of the product.
The Honest Co. Ironically Not a Stranger to Allegations of False Advertising
When consumers purchase Honest Co. products, they expect them to contain all natural ingredients. According to CNBC News, two independent lab tests ordered by the WSJ showed that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (clearly not a natural ingredient) had been found in Honest Co.’s liquid detergent. Honest Co. acknowledged that the ingredient has the potential to irritate skin but claimed to use a “gentler alternative” – Sodium Coco-Sulfate. The company has also faced lawsuits from unhappy consumers claiming that Honest Sunscreen SPF 30 failed to protect them from severe sunburn.
Alternatives to Baby Powder
If a product hurts people but solves some problem that no other product can solve, the harms might be worth the risks. Using baby powder can’t be justified along those lines. The problem baby powder solves is that it helps prevent diaper rash. Lotions with vitamins A and D, and petroleum jelly do the same thing and, in fact, do it more effectively.
Why Use Baby Powder at all?
Baby powder as a consumer product has been around since the early 1900s. It’s something generations of families have grown up using to solve a variety of problems. The American family has been taught to trust baby powder and the brands associated with it. Trust in a product so readily associated with love, care, and family is not easily lost. Unfortunately, the actions of corporations like J&J are only beginning to deteriorate that trust. It will be interesting to see how much longer the ties of trust between American families and baby powder remain intact.