#330 – The Ugly Truth of Talcum Powder

Episode #330 from Digging Deeper with Andi and Brian Hale

Talc is a natural mineral used for a variety of consumer and industrial products. Talc can easily be contaminated with asbestos when mined. This has led to concern over exposure to contaminated talcum powder products. Asbestos in talc has been linked to mesothelioma and other cancers.

~ mesothelioma.com

J&J’s baby powder, first sold in 1894, became one of its most important products. Talcum powder helped prevent newborns’ skin from irritation, friction and diaper rash. First accounts of harmful effects of talc on humans was recorded in the 1930’s and in 1971 the British Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology study discovered talc particles in 75% of ovarian tumors.

In 1976, researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital analyzed 19 samples of talcum powder products sold in the U.S. Researchers found asbestos in 10 samples. Asbestos content in the samples ranged from 2 to 20%. They found the highest concentration of asbestos in a ZBT product.

Though talcum powder has been used for decades, recent lawsuits have caused people to question its safety. Juries in recent years have awarded billions to women who claimed that Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

More than two dozen scientific studies by some of the world’s leading scientists and medical experts have reported alarming findings over the last 40 years. Still, Johnson & Johnson chooses to attack the science rather than acknowledge these risks and protect women.

  • Brands & Distributors: Johnson & Johnson; Colgate-Palmolive; Gold Bond; Bausch Health; Whittaker, Clark and Daniels

Many of Gold Bond’s powders use talc as a major ingredient. However, unlike Johnson & Johnson, there have not been any highly publicized lawsuits that link Gold Bond’s products to any form of cancer. That may be because the focus has been ovarian cancer and most of Gold Bond’s products are directed toward men.

Women have the right to know the facts about the cancer risks associated with talcum powder products like Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.

According to a study released in February 2020, researchers found asbestos-contaminated talc was the cause of 75 cases of mesothelioma. 

The website Truth About Talc is focused on getting Talc off the shelves all together.

More than 34,000 lawsuits currently filed in state and federal courts across the nation charge that Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier Imerys Talc America failed for decades to warn women that use of its talc-based products could cause cancer.

In May 2020, Johnson & Johnson announced it would be ending the sale of talc-based baby powder in North America. For years, the company has faced lawsuits related to the safety of this product.


It has been 591 days since Johnson & Johnson said it would discontinue talc-based baby powder in North America. It’s estimated that 33,687 U.S. ovarian cancer cases have been diagnosed since this pledged date.


Johnson & Johnson is drawing criticism after using a controversial bankruptcy maneuver to block roughly 38,000 lawsuits linked to claims that its talc baby powder was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos.

The health products giant used a quirk of Texas state law to spin off a new company called LTL, then dumped all its asbestos-related liabilities — including the avalanche of lawsuits — into the new firm.

LTL filed for bankruptcy this October in a federal court in Charlotte, N.C., a move designed to sharply limit efforts to recover damages for those who say they were harmed by J&J’s baby powder.

“Johnson & Johnson doesn’t have this liability anymore. They pushed all of it into the company they created just to file for bankruptcy,” said Lindsey Simon, a bankruptcy expert at the University of Georgia School of Law.

As a result, Simon said, “consumers can’t recover [damages] against a big solvent company. They have to recover against this smaller fictional company created [by J&J].”


If you are concerned about the products you use, a good precaution is to check the ingredients. Though talcum powder products are still being sold in stores, most companies now use cornstarch in baby powders. Store-brand Walmart®, Target®, Walgreens and Rite-Aid® baby powders do not contain any talc.

Header photo by Mike Mozart

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