Tara Mackey for #tossthetalc

My last 9-5 job was tedious. I worked for a company that analyzed asbestos for NYC public schools. A boring job with a ton of pressure.

My first task in the early morning was defining the samples into their different categories. I spent long days hunched over lab samples, logging them for what they were. Each one of these categories – metal, mortar, rust, and powder – any of which possibly contained large amounts of carcinogens, including asbestos. I filed them accordingly and noted where the samples originated from and the date. I’d pick up a sample in a small plastic baggie that said – “the 7th-grade boys’ locker room ceiling”, “the 2nd-grade homeroom closet”, “the entire school’s gym walls,” so given the nature of where these samples were gathered- I couldn’t be too careful about identifying and labeling them correctly. My job was the difference between a school getting shut down to remove the ceiling in the 7th-grade boys’ locker room or the school staying open and not informing the student body of the dangers we identified in our lab.

It was a big burden to get correct.

It was not glamorous.

It was not fun.

But I did learn a lot.

As I logged samples in the morning before analyzing them, I noticed one kind of sample coming up again and again. I wrote the word over and over and over again. Talc.

This is when I first mentally registered talc as a harmful product… yet; it sounded both familiar and obscure at the same time. “Haven’t I seen this word before?” I thought to myself.

I had.

Talc is everywhere. At least in this country. It’s banned in other countries, including the EU. But in the US, it’s used everywhere from diaper rash powder to deodorant to cosmetics. For decades it was used without much concern (despite early studies of talc miners that suggested an increased risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.) Talc was, and is, being used in conventional baby powder, body and shower products, lotions, feminine hygiene products, eyeshadow, foundation, lipstick, deodorants and face masks. As time wears on, the news linked to talc just keeps getting worse.

Unfortunately, the correlation between bad news around talc and ovarian cancer seem to go hand-in-hand… both ever-rising. Ovarian cancer is the 5th leading cause of death for women; 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in the US and around 300,000 worldwide. Worldwide fatalities are expected to jump to 371,000 by 2035, according to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

In the 1980’s, scientists started to examine the link between talc and womens’ ovarian health. And here is what they found: “Since 1982, more than 25 published studies have found and examined the link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer.”

Scientific research shows that women who regularly use talcum powder products like baby powder in their genital area are three times more likely to develop ovarian cancer than women who do not use the product.

Dr. Bernard Harlow, the Leading ovarian cancer researcher from Harvard Medical School, has this to say about talc and cancer: ” Given the poor prognosis for ovarian cancer, any potentially harmful exposures should be avoided, particularly with limited benefits. For this reason, we discourage the use of talc in genital hygiene, particularly as a daily habit.”

Thousands of lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson have linked their products to ovarian cancer. Although, it should be noted that the legal space has been a hard-fought battle between women afflicted with the silent-killer of cancers, and the corporate behemoth, J&J. New cases appear against the company’s talc-based products, and years of legal battles and appeals ensues… 2020, and we are no closer to having talc removed from our everyday products (nor having warning labels added to talc-based goods). However, there is a petition working on this very thing that you can sign here.

If you’re thinking, ‘why take the risk?’ I’m with you! I have provided three talc-free swaps to the most common products that use talc:

Conventional Baby Powder -> Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Dusting Powder

The very last place you’re gonna want carcinogenic talc is on your baby’s bum. Burt’s Bees dusting powder is talc-free with naturally absorbent cornstarch and is formulated without parabens, phthalates, petrolatum, or SLS.

Deodorant Powder -> Arrowroot powder

For those of you who like powdered deodorant, here’s a trick. Use natural arrowroot powder as an absorbent. Simply apply like regular powdered deodorant. The best part is it’s super cheap and you can buy in bulk. I make my husband a cooling one with arrowroot powder and a sprinkle of peppermint or menthol. He loves it! Simple, healthy and toxin-free!

Feminine Powder -> Emerita Feminine Deodorant Powder

Feminine Deodorant Powder keeps the area between your thighs, under breasts, and other areas free of odor & wetness. This formula starts with cornstarch & baking soda to fight odor & wetness and ends with calendula, chamomile, and lavender to soothe your skin. After bathing or showering, simply apply our powder between thighs, under breasts, or wherever odor and wetness are an issue. You can also sprinkle some directly on undergarments, pads, or pantyliners, too!