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January 16, 2019

Canada considering measures to limit exposure to potentially dangerous talc powder

Action may be needed to protect the public from health risks allegedly caused by talcum powder in certain cosmetic products, Canada’s health ministry announced.

The announcement on Dec. 5, 2018 followed the completion of a Draft Screening Assessment and Risk Management Scope conducted by the Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada agencies. Both proposals focused on potential dangers of talc inhalation and use of the mineral by women in the genital or perineal area.

Talc is one of the softest known minerals on the planet and is commonly found in products such as baby powder and powdered makeup. In its raw form, however, talc may contain traces of toxic asbestos fibers due to the minerals naturally occurring within close proximity in the earth. As a result, asbestos, which is known to cause cancer, may contaminate talc-based products, placing consumers at risk of potentially deadly diseases including mesothelioma when inhaled, and ovarian cancer when used by women for feminine hygiene.

Asbestos Ban in Canada

A nationwide ban on the import, sale, manufacturing and use of asbestos went into effect in Canada on Dec. 30, 2018. In the United States, however, a nationwide ban of asbestos does not exist. While U.S. regulations stipulate that talc must not contain asbestos in order to be considered “cosmetic grade,” few enforcement policies are in place or currently proposed to ensure that talc is not contaminated before it is sold to the public. 

“Based on the available information, it is proposed that there is potential for harm to human health in Canada at current levels of exposure,” the draft assessment stated, adding that as a result, talc meets the criteria for government restrictions and public protections under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999.

Talc is present in approximately 6,500 cosmetic products in Canada, and 8,500 self-care products, the draft assessment found. Proposed recommendations to reduce exposure include:

  • Adding talc to the Canada’s List of Toxic Substances
  • Modifying the current entry on talc in Health Canada’s Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist
  • Modifying the Natural Health Products Ingredients Database to reflect potential risks
  • Encouraging the public to avoid talc inhalation and/or perineal use   

Both the draft screening assessment and the Risk Management Scope are open for public comment for 60 days until Feb. 6, 2019. Finalized versions of both will take into consideration public commentary and any new evidence, authorities say.

Read the Draft Screening Assessment and Risk Management Scope in full.

More information on how to submit a public comments on both proposals can be found here.


Motley Rice attorneys represent people who have developed life-altering diseases associated with talc and asbestos, including ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. If you or a loved one was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talc for feminine hygiene, you may contact attorney Carmen Scott by email or call 1.800.768.4026. If you or a loved one developed mesothelioma or another lung disease after inhaling talc, you may contact attorneys Chris Swett and Nate Finch by email or call 1.800.768.4026.

Learn more about talc and ovarian cancer.

Learn more about talc and asbestos exposure

Read Carmen Scott’s latest blog posts on ovarian cancer.