Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Canada says Talc may be 'harmful to human health'

The government of Canada is considering prohibiting or restricting the use of talc in some products. The government "proposes that inhaling loose talc powders and using certain products containing talc in the female genital area may be harmful to human health." The announcement was made Wednesday on the Health Canada website.

The draft screening assessment will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, and will be open for public comment for 60 days, until February 6, 2019. The Risk Management Scope, which outlines the possible measures to manage the risks identified in the draft screening assessment, will also be open for public comment for the same 60-day period.

No action, such as warning labels or a ban, will be taken until this final assessment is published, according to news reports.

Draft assessment did not identify human health risks of concern from oral exposures, including talc in food and drugs; dermal exposures such as the application of talc-containing products to skin; or inhalational exposures from dry hair shampoo or pressed powder products, such as cosmetics like eye shadow and blush.  

However, the assessment did identify two exposure scenarios of potential concern to human health. 

One was inhalation of fine particles of talc during the use of loose powder, self-care products (eg, body powder, baby powder, face powder, foot powder), potentially resulting in damage to the lungs.   

The other scenario of concern was exposure of the female perineal area, which includes the genitals, to self-care products containing talc (e.g., body powder, baby powder, diaper and rash creams, genital antiperspirants and deodorants, body wipes, bath bombs), as this type of exposure has been associated with ovarian cancer in studies of the human population.

The controversy is over whether talc itself is a carcinogen, and the issue is complicated because talc is sometimes contaminated with asbestos (the two sometimes occur naturally together).  

The scientific community has not reached a consensus yet.

A recent review published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention (Eur J Cancer Prev. 2008;17:139-146) concluded that “data collectively do not indicate that cosmetic talc causes ovarian cancer.”

Comments: For some, the controversy is on. The DCGI must come out with clear cut direction in this issue. But, in the meantime public should take their GP into confidence when using these products.

Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania   (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Immediate Past National President IMA

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