Is Talcum Powder Safe For Babies?
Should You Be Concerned With Using Talcum Powder On Your Baby?
Is Baby Powder Safe To Use On My Baby?
You may have heard about the concern that prolonged use of talcum powder may increase the risk of ovarian cancer. There are over a thousand lawsuits and three jury verdicts against Johnson & Johnson. The attorneys at TheLawFirm.com are often asked by concerned women about whether it is safe to use baby powder on their baby.
We note that talcum powder is only used for a short time on babies. Our understanding of the science linking talcum powder to ovarian cancer suggests that prolonged use over a period of years is necessary to increase the risk of cancer. So, on that basis, it is unlikely that baby powder would be harmful to use on babies.
Inhaling Baby Powder Can Be Dangerous For Your Baby
There is another risk however. The American Academy of Pediatrics points out that baby powder can cause breathing trouble and serious lung damage for babies if they inhale the particles. Because talc powder is so fine it's hard to keep powder out of the air when you're using it.
Even small amounts of talcum powder can irritate a baby's tiny lungs – especially if the baby is at high risk for respiratory illness. Those at high risk include premature babies, babies with congenital heart disease, and babies who've had frequent respiratory illnesses.
How To Use Baby Powder On Your Child
If your baby isn't at high risk and you decide to use baby powder, do so sparingly. Put the powder on your hands first, away from your baby, not directly on or near them.
Keep the powder container well out of reach of your baby and of any older brothers and sisters, too. You don't want small hands to get hold of it or knock it over and produce a cloud of powder that could be inhaled.
To prevent skin irritation, don't allow powder to build up. At every diaper change, wash away any powder that may have accumulated, especially in the folds of your baby's skin.
Non-cancer for risks of baby powder use on infants
The US National Library of Medicine defines aspiration simply as “[b]reathing in a foreign object.” In the case of baby powder aspiration, then, the patient has breathed some quantity of baby powder into the lungs, which can result in coughing, choking, and other pulmonary issues.
Unlike the baby powder cancer risk—which presently involves only talc-based powders—aspiration is a risk associated with both talc-based and corn-starch-based baby powders.
Baby Powder Hazard?
Since at least 1981, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been warning about the potential harms of baby powder aspiration. In August of that year that the AAP’s journal Pediatrics published a report under the alarming title “Baby Powder—A Hazard!” The report provided an in-depth, systematic look at the health impacts of baby powder aspiration on infants, and the results were staggering.
From the outset, the report’s authors stated unequivocally, “The object of this report is to point out the frequency of baby powder aspiration and the potential hazard of careless use.” Even while acknowledging that “[t]he true incidence of baby powder aspiration is grossly underestimated”, the report cites estimates that, in the early 1980s, as many as 50 serious cases of baby powder aspiration were being reported each year to the New York City Poison Control Center alone.
Further, available data has shown for decades that incidents of baby powder aspiration prove fatal in a shockingly high number of incidents. One study referenced in the AAP’s 1981 report examined 25 serious cases of baby powder aspiration and found approximately 20%—or one out of five—resulted in death.
The comprehensive study published in the August 1981 issue of Pediatrics was predated by a shorter, more narrowly focused article written by the study’s lead author Howard C. Mofenson. In this piece, published January 1981, Mofenson limited his focus to the Nassau County Medical Center Poison Control Center, where he and his colleagues were “astounded” to learn that over a six-month period in 1980, approximately one emergency call out of every 100 involving a child under the age of 5 related to a potential case of baby powder aspiration.
While acknowledging that more detailed research was still ongoing, Mofenson found the early results of his data collection to be alarming enough to share with pediatricians and the Consumer Product Safety Commission before he even had concluded the entire study, a drastic step that demonstrated a great deal of certainty in the study’s outcome and a great deal of alarm at what that outcome revealed. In summarizing their position, Mofenson and his co-author Joseph Greensher explained:
Use Baby Powder With Care
“Baby powder is not considered harmful by most parents. Physicians caring for children should emphasize to parents that powders are not considered essential to the routine skin care of infants, but if powders are purchased, they should be stored out of reach of children because of their potential hazard. Some powder containers have the appearance of a baby bottle and may be mistakenly used in such a manner.”
Although subsequent research showed a decline in serious instances of baby powder aspiration following the release of the 1981 study—a drop attributed to increased awareness—it continues to be a serious, potentially fatal condition of which a frighteningly large number of parents are completely unaware. If you choose to use baby powder products on your infant, whether you choose a talc-based or corn-starch-based product, make sure to take steps to minimize total exposure and limit the risk inhalation.
Legal Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to be used as medical information or diagnosis. The sources of the information presented in the article have been researched and are linked within the article. Please seek out medical advice from a licensed medical professional if you are experiencing a problem with any of the drugs or devices mentioned in this article.
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