Does baby powder really cause cancer?

If you are a typical Kentucky resident, you probably grew up with baby powder; specifically, Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder. Your mom undoubtedly shook it all over you when you were a baby because that is what her mother had taught her to do. You likely continued the family tradition and slathered your own children in baby powder when they were little. All of you may have continued to use it on a regular basis long after you grew out of babyhood. After all, baby powder and the talc that is its main ingredient are excellent moisture absorbers and also make your skin feel soft and smooth.

Over the past several decades, however, many red flags have gone up regarding baby powder’s possible carcinogenic properties. In the early 1970s, scientific studies began surfacing that indicated small amounts of asbestos in baby powder and other talc-containing powders and cosmetics. Asbestos was already a known carcinogen, most associated with mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer whose symptoms often do not appear until years or even decades after the victim’s initial asbestos exposure.

J&J cover-up

As reported by, Johnson & Johnson immediately set to work refuting all claims alleging and/or scientific experiments showing the presence of asbestos in its products. Nevertheless, the approximately 175,000 pages of internal J&J documents released last month by a court in which J&J is defending itself against one of the thousands of lawsuits that consumers have filed against it in recent years, show that J&J knew about the asbestos in its baby powder and was speculating as to how much of it must be present to cause cancer in a baby. In addition, J&J claimed for years that their baby powder and other products were asbestos-free, knowing they were not.

J&J’s internal documents reveal that throughout the 1970s, the company did everything it could to discount test procedures, methodologies and equipment. They also fought the Food and Drug Administration’s attempts to set and enforce higher testing standards and lower legal limits. They won. The FDA kept the one percent asbestos level declared to be “safe” for inhalation by talc miners and workers who handle asbestos-containing products, mainly construction materials, on a daily basis.

A “safe” level of asbestos has yet to be found that will not eventually produce mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases in people who inhale its microscopic fibers. In the meantime, the lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson continue and consumers, possibly including you, have stopped using talc-based powders and cosmetics, especially baby powder. This information is educational in nature and should not be interpreted as legal advice.