In 1991, doctors at Southampton General Hospital warned that inhaling babies' talcum powder could be fatal,(1) representing “an unappreciated hazard."They state that “talcum powder can cause severe respiratory symptoms in infants: its use should be discouraged and containers should carry a warning and have child proof caps." Eight deaths have been attributed to inhalation of talc.
Concerns over the safety of talc have been raised before and studies of talc miners and millers have shown that it can damage the lungs.(2) But experiments in which huge amounts of the commercial product were administered to animals, seemed to suggest no hazard to consumers. For instance, in 1977 experimenters exposed hamsters to high grade cosmetic talc at doses nearly 2000 times higher than that experienced by babies during toilet care. There was no effect on survival or damage to the lungs.(3) In the same year, other scientists forced rats to breathe talc at doses approaching 6000 times those used in baby care. Despite the massive amounts, there was only a slight effect on the lungs.(3)
1) P.W.Pairaudean et al, British Medical Journal, 1991, May 18, 1200-1201.
2) A.Seaton in Occupational Lung Diseases, Eds. W.K.Morgan & A.Seaton (Saunders, 1982).
3) Lancet, 1977, June 25, 1348-1349.
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