Report on ‘toxic’ talc worries India

Health Canada opens risk assessment draft flagging health risks linked to talcum powder use for public comments

The debate over whether talcum powder poses serious health risks is in the spotlight again. A risk assessment draft on talc published by Health Canada, the country’s public health department, states that talcum powder is harmful to the lungs when inhaled during breathing and could possibly cause ovarian cancer when used by women in the genital area. The draft, which was opened for public comments on Saturday, would be confirmed in a final assessment that would entail Canada adding talc to a list of toxic substances if the proposed conclusions are confirmed at the end of a 60-day feedback period. At that point in time the Canadian government would also decide on the measures it would take to prohibit or restrict the use of the clay mineral, which finds wide use including in cosmetics, paints, ceramics. In July, a U.S. court ordered pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.7 billion to 22 women who claimed that they had suffered from cancer as a result of using J&J’s talcum powder. The company is contesting that verdict. Canada’s draft states that the IARC has classified perineal use of talc-based body powder as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” on the basis of limited evidence in humans. It further cites a study that revealed the presence of talc particles in ovaries of humans and associated perineal exposure to talc with presence of talc in lymph nodes and ovaries of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Gynaecologist Suchitra Pandit said there was not enough evidence to conclusively link the use of talcum powder to ovarian cancer. “Use of talcum powder in the perineum region has been said to be a known cause and we advise against it. However, much larger studies are needed to prove the link”, said Dr. Pandit.
J&J said it plans to respond to Health Canada as the draft is now open for public comments.
“The draft by Health Canada appears to rely on a select review of the evidence and does not appear to include the largest, most recent studies on the use of cosmetic talc,” a J&J spokesperson told The Hindu . “Health Canada also relies on a handful of conclusions by third parties, which also were not based on a review of the wider body of evidence. The weight of the evidence does not support this draft conclusion.”

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