Have you used talcium powder recently? Perhaps on yourself? Or perhaps, on your new born baby?

Today’s trivia will be about Talcium powder. That innocent looking, white, wonderful powder which I myself often like to use especially in the hot hot weather of Singapore where I’m from.

As you all probably have guessed, Talcium powder is made of Talc. But what exactly is talc?

This, my friends, is what Talc looks like:
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Yes, talc is actually a mineral. For those chemistry buffs, the chemical formula of talc is H2Mg3(SiO3)4.

Besides talcium powder, talc is also used as a lubricant, and as a filler in paper manufacture. Besides that, most tailor’s chalk is made of talc. Even then, the most well known use of talc is probably as baby powder for preventing nappy rashes on babies.

It’s common, widespread usage hides a worrying issue. Apparently, scientific studies conducted has been suggesting that talc is likely to be carcinogenic. In fact, it has been shown that routine application of talcium powder to the genital area is linked with a three-to-fourfold increase in the development of ovarian cancer.

Not only that, because the texture of talcium powder is very fine, it can be inhaled easily. When this happens, the powder in the lungs could lead to illnesses such as pneumonia and inflammation of the airways. In fact, too much aspiration could cause a baby’s death. Yes. It is that serious!

Though these findings are still in their preliminary stages and have yet to be conclusive, many doctors are already advicing parents against using talcium powder. I’m sure most parents would rather take caution about such matters and avoid using talcium.

However, talcium powder is such a convenient way of protecting a baby from diaper rashes and to soften their skin that it wouldn’t be easy finding a satisfactory alternative that people would use in its place.

It has been suggested that cornstarch and lotions are plausible alternatives to talcium powder. There are of course commercial powders available that are talc-free. Perhaps, if you are still using talcium powder, it’s time to consider switching to a talc-free powder for the sake of your health.

As what chinese say, 宁可信其有, 不可信其无。(roughly translated: It’s better to believe it, rather than to dismiss it)

I, for one, will have to quit my habit of dousing myself in talcium powder everytime the weather gets too hot. =p

Links on the health issue concerning Talc: [link1] ; [link2] ; [link3] ; [link4]
General information on talc: [link]