Talcum powder, often referred to as baby powder, has long been a fixture in many households, valued for its softness and absorbent qualities. However, recent years have seen mounting concerns regarding its safety, particularly concerning cancer risk. 

Starting in 1971, studies have correlated talcum powder to cancer. The studies have correlated talcum powder to the following cancer types:

  • Ovarian
  • Lung
  • Endometrial
  • Mesothelioma
  • Other types

Despite this, talcum powder is still widely used in everyday products today. Name-brand companies, such as Johnson & Johnson and Avon, have awarded billions of dollars to cancer victims in recent years, due to their asbestos-containing talc products. 

For example, in December 2020, a jury awarded $52.1 million dollars in damages to a woman who developed mesothelioma after decades of using Avon’s talcum powder products. 

In 2023, Johnson & Johnson announced they had set aside $8.9 billion in compensation for talcum powder victims and their families. These companies have yet to admit any wrongdoing though currently facing active lawsuits and claims against them.

What is Talcum Powder?

Talcum powder’s main ingredient is talc, a naturally occurring mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate. Talc is green, white, or gray with a soap-like texture and is mined from deposits located all around the world. The process of refining talc into powder involves crushing, drying, and milling the raw mineral to produce a fine, silky substance. 

Due to its absorbent qualities, talcum powder is used for its ability to reduce friction and moisture on the skin, making it a popular choice for diaper rash prevention and personal hygiene products. It is also commonly used in skincare, makeup, and hair products.

Talcum Powder and Asbestos

One of the primary concerns surrounding the use of talcum powder is potential contamination with asbestos. Another naturally occurring mineral, asbestos, is commonly found alongside talc in geological formations. With this close proximity, asbestos fibers can easily mix with talc during the mining and processing stages, posing a significant risk of contamination. 

Inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers has been linked to various cancers, including mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer affecting the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. While asbestos use has declined significantly due to its recognized health hazards, traces of asbestos may still be present in certain talc products, posing a potential risk to consumers.

How Talcum Powder Can Cause Cancer

It begins when the talc is mined, sometimes with asbestos unknowingly included. It is turned into a powder, where the laden asbestos is disturbed, resulting in fine, sharp asbestos fibers. Then, it is further processed and out to market. Depending on the product containing talc, the user may apply the talcum powder to their face or skin, or their child’s skin. 

Asbestos exposure can also occur through the air.  Once ingested or inhaled, the sharp asbestos fibers travel through the body and are lodged in the lungs or other organs in the body. From there, these foreign particles cause inflammation, ultimately resulting in cancerous cells that multiply. It can take up to 50 years before mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers show symptoms and are diagnosed.

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Types of Cancer Caused by Talcum Powder

Recent research has raised alarms regarding the potential link between talcum powder use and an increased risk of certain kinds of cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified talc contaminated with asbestos to be carcinogenic to humans. 

Though medical studies are mixed on the correlation between talcum powder and cancer, it’s important for consumers to be aware of the potential cancer risks. Below are the different types of cancer linked to asbestos-containing talcum powder. 

Ovarian Cancer

The possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer was first recognized in the 1970’s when talc particles were found on ovarian and cervical tumors. Since then numerous epidemiological studies have been conducted, finding a correlation between the two. 

A 2015 study by Dr. Roberta Ness found the use of talc increases the risk of ovarian cancer by 30% to 60%. They found that eliminating the use of talcum powder could save more than a quarter of women who develop ovarian cancer. 

Some experts believe asbestos-containing talc is the culprit for the correlation in ovarian cancer. Others have found that the application of talc powder to the genital area may be the root of the issue. Tiny particles of talc travel to the ovaries, causing chronic inflammation which over time develops into ovarian cancer. 

In a 2016 study, Dr. Daniel Cramer found that women who regularly dust their genitals with talcum powder have a 33% higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who do not use talcum powder. Though unable to be reproduced, Dr. Cramer has more than four decades of research in talcum powder and ovarian cancer. 

The medical community may be divided in the causation, but many juries have sided with the cancer victims against large companies knowingly producing hazardous talcum powder products

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is often the cause of smoking and radon exposure, but three to four percent of all cases are linked to asbestos. Inhaling asbestos-containing talcum powder is how lung cancer would develop. The asbestos fibers become trapped in the lungs, over time resulting in cancer. Studies have found an increased risk of lung cancer in talc miners and millers, while others found no increase in lung cancer risk.


Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer with the only known cause being asbestos exposure. As with lung cancer, asbestos is absorbed in the body through ingesting it in the air. A study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine linked asbestos-contaminated talcum powder to 75 confirmed mesothelioma cases in 2020. 

Unfortunately, new findings show one in four new mesothelioma diagnoses are women. Malignant mesothelioma from secondhand asbestos exposure is one reason for this closing of the gender gap. Another is women entering fields that have been held predominantly by men and pose a high risk of asbestos exposure, like manufacturing, construction, mining, or joining the military. 

Other Cancers

Talcum powder has been possibly linked to other cancers as well. A 2010 study found talcum powder may slightly increase the risk of endometrial cancer in women who are past menopause. Other limited studies have found a possible link to stomach cancer. Other studies have not corroborated these findings. 

Who is at Risk of Cancer from Talcum Powder Exposure?

The risk of cancer from talcum powder exposure is influenced by various factors, including frequency and duration of use. Women, in particular, have historically been more exposed to talcum powder products due to targeted marketing campaigns for cosmetic, skincare, and feminine hygiene products. However, individuals of all genders and ages who regularly use talcum powder may be at risk.

Workers in specific industries may also have a higher risk of exposure to talcum powder containing asbestos. This includes: 

  • Hairdressers and barbers
  • Talc miners and millers
  • Paint makers and paint sprayers
  • Ceramic workers

Is It Safe to Use Baby Powder?

The safety of talcum powder has been a subject of debate among scientists, regulators, and consumer advocacy groups for decades. While some studies have suggested a potential link between talc use and cancer, particularly ovarian cancer, others have found inconclusive or conflicting results. 

As a result, regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to monitor the safety of talcum powder products and provide guidance to consumers and manufacturers. Companies that produce baby powder products have recently changed their formula to remove talc. 

Talc Lawsuits for Talcum Powder and Cancer

The controversy surrounding talcum powder has sparked numerous lawsuits against manufacturers, alleging that their products contributed to cancer development, notably ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Some cases have resulted in significant legal settlements, underscoring the severity of the issue and the accountability of manufacturers in ensuring product safety.

These lawsuits have brought attention to the responsibility of companies to prioritize consumer safety and provide accurate information about potential health risks associated with their products. Plaintiffs in talcum powder lawsuits often argue that manufacturers knew about the potential dangers of talc and failed to adequately warn consumers. The outcomes of these legal battles have far-reaching implications for product liability law and consumer protection.

Johnson & Johnson Lawsuit

Among the most high-profile talcum powder lawsuits is the litigation against Johnson & Johnson, a leading manufacturer of personal care products. Allegations against the company include failure to warn consumers about the potential health risks associated with talcum powder use, as well as negligence in ensuring product safety.

The Johnson & Johnson asbestos lawsuits have garnered widespread media attention, with plaintiffs alleging that the company’s talc-based products, including its iconic Baby Powder, contributed to their cancer diagnoses. While Johnson & Johnson has vehemently denied these allegations, citing decades of scientific research supporting the safety of its talcum powder products, juries have awarded significant damages to plaintiffs in several high-profile cases.

Avon Lawsuit

Similarly, Avon, another prominent cosmetics company, has faced legal action over its talcum powder products. Some of their products containing talcum powder include face powder setting powder, dry shampoo, and body powder. Plaintiffs have accused the company of knowingly selling talc-based products contaminated with asbestos, putting consumers at risk of cancer. 

In December 2022, a jury awarded $52.1 million in damages to a woman who developed mesothelioma after decades of use. The jury found the company had known about the effects of asbestos and continued to sell their products anyway. 

Cashmere Bouquet Lawsuit

Colgate-Palmolive, producer of body powder product, Cashmere Bouquet has faced ongoing scrutiny over their talcum products. In 2015, a $13 million settlement was awarded to a woman who developed mesothelioma after using Cashmere Bouquet. Colgate Palmolive currently has more than 170 cases against them for using asbestos-containing talc in their products. 

Protect You and Your Family

In light of the ongoing controversy surrounding talcum powder and cancer, it’s essential for consumers to exercise caution when using such products. Opting for talc-free alternatives and minimizing direct genital application can help mitigate potential risks. Additionally, staying informed about product safety recalls and legal developments can empower individuals to make informed choices and protect their health and well-being.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to talc or asbestos and developed an asbestos-related disease, contact us now to see if you qualify for compensation.

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Written by Richard Stewart

Writer, Content Coordinator and Outreach Director

Richard Stewart is a writer, content coordinator and outreach director with over 12 years of experience covering asbestos exposure, mesothelioma, and treatment options. He is passionate about spreading awareness for asbestos and mesothelioma and helping victims find the information and resources they need online.

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  • Karageorgi S, Gates MA, Hankinson SE, De Vivo I. Perineal use of talcum powder and endometrial cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010;19:1269−1275. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20406962/


  • Mazurek, J. M., Blackley, D. J., & Weissman, D. N. (2022). Malignant mesothelioma mortality in women — United States, 1999–2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 71(19), 645–649. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7119a1


  • Feeley, Jef, and Margaret Cronin Fisk. “Colgate-Palmolive Settles Claims Over Asbestos in Its Talc.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg L.P., 10 Nov. 2017. Web. 29 Nov. 2017.