UPDATE: Health Canada issues warning about talcum powder

Consumers are being warned to avoid inhaling talcum powder or using the products on female genitals, as exposure may cause potentially serious respiratory effects and possibly ovarian cancer.

A draft assessment by Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada also says baby powder should be kept away from a child's face to avoid inhalation.

Talcum powder taken into the lungs can result in difficulty breathing, decreased lung function and fibrosis, or scarring of the lungs.

Products containing the naturally occurring mineral have been linked to ovarian cancer in some women, and the Canadian Cancer Society identifies talc use on the genitals as a possible risk factor.

The draft assessment focuses on the safety of talc in such self-care products as cosmetics; baby, body, face and foot powders; diaper and rash creams; and genital antiperspirants and deodorants.

The government says that if its final screening assessment confirms that talc in certain products is harmful to human health, action will be taken to manage the identified risks.

Baby powder-maker Johnson & Johnson declined NEWSTALK 1010's request for an interview Wednesday but shared the following statement:

"We stand behind the safety of cosmetic talc and we will respond to Health Canada during the comment period.

Upon review of the long history of evidence about the safety of cosmetic talc, governmental and non-governmental agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have concluded that the evidence is insufficient to link cosmetic talc use to cancer. Research, clinical evidence and nearly 40 years of studies by independent medical experts around the world continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc.
The draft preliminary assessment by Health Canada appears to rely on a select review of the evidence and does not appear to include the largest, most recent studies on the use of cosmetic talc. Health Canada also relies on a handful of conclusions by third parties, which also were not based on a review of the wider body of evidence. The weight of the evidence does not support this draft conclusion."

with a file from Siobhan Morris/NEWSTALK 1010