Talcum powder has been in the news a lot lately. In an Reuters article published yesterday, it was described how Johnson & Johnson has lost another lawsuit charging that its baby powder causes ovarian cancer. You can read the article here:
I am not going to discuss the merits of the lawsuits. The purpose of this article is to explain what talc is and what possible dangers its use has been linked to. Warning: we are about to get deep, this is not general purpose information. I used minerals.net as my primary source along with information from the National Institute of Health. You can find information on talc at minerals.net here:
What is Talc?
Talc is the softest mineral on earth, and is number 1 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. The scale is a measurement devised by Austrian scientist Fredrick Mohs to determine the hardness of a mineral. Hardness is the resistance of an object to scrapes and scratching, with the harder something is, the greater its resistance.
Talc can be found in different colors, which are well sought after, along with what is called pseudomorphs. A pseudomorph is a mineral that chemically replaces another mineral without changing the external form of the original mineral.
Talc is a basic magnesium silicate, which can be found in colors of white, beige, gray, yellow, brown, pink, purple, blue, and green. Talc has a monoclinic crystal system, and is most often found as large distorted masses and foliated sheets. Foliated means an aggregate is composed of numerous, thin, leaf-like crystals.
Talc can also be found as a plate, which is a small, flat, flaky crystal. Talc can be micaceous, which is an aggregate of compact, flat, parallel, flexible, peel-able sheets. Talc can be radiating, which is an aggregate composed of tiny, slender crystals compacted together radiating from a central point. The radiation can be flat or three-dimensional. If three dimensional, the aggregate commonly occurs with circular, ball-like masses, called spheralitic.
Talc can be botryoidal, which is an aggregate which resembles a cluster of grapes with smooth rounded surfaces or bubbles. The term, globular is also used to describe this particular form of aggregate.
Then, there is a fibrous talc aggregate, which is constructed of fine, usually parallel threads. Some fibrous minerals contain cloth-like flexibility, meaning they are easy to bend soft to the touch, almost like cotton.
Crystallized talc is rare and is almost always microscopic. Talc has a transparency range from transparent to opaque. The specific gravity of talc, or the ratio between the density of an object, and a reference substance, which is usually water, is in the range 2.7 to 2.8.
Talc usually exhibits a luster than can be greasy, waxy, or pearly. Talc’s tenacity, or ability to be cut with a knife is sectile, which means it can be sliced easily. Talc is found in metamorphic rock, or rock formed from original rock through heat and pressure.
Soapstone is formed mostly of talc, with small amounts of chlorite and pyroxenes, which are a class of rock-forming silicate minerals, generally containing calcium, magnesium, and iron. Soapstone is used in ornamental carvings.
Talc is a very important industrial mineral. Talcum powder is just crushed talc, and is the main ingredient in many cosmetics as well as baby powders. Talcum powder was used in latex gloves to fight moisture, but has since been replaced with cornstarch. Lastly, talc is highly resistant to heat and electricity.
Health Problems Associated With Talc
I reviewed the National Institute of Health’s U.S. Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus website to gather information on the health effects of using talcum powder, or anything that contains talc. You can find the site here:
Respiratory problems have been associated with talc in powder form. The above link is to a page entitled “Talcum Powder Poisoning”. According to information listed on the site, talc can be harmful if swallowed or breathed in. It is always advisable to wash hands after handling talc.
Talc is an ingredient in certain products that kill germs like antiseptics. Talc is often used as a filler for street drugs, like heroin. That is why you must purchase drugs only from reputable drug dealers with years of experience and not some new kid off the block.
Most symptoms of talcum powder poisoning are caused by breathing in talc dust. Breathing problems are the most common symptom. Other problems associated with talcum powder poisoning urine output becoming greatly decreased or halted all together, coughing, irritation of the eyes and throat, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Talcum powder poisoning has also been linked to convulsions, low blood pressure, chest pains, difficulty breathing, lung failure, rapid or shallow breathing, and wheezing. Other health problems include induced coma, drowsiness, fevers, lethargy, and twitching of arms, hands, legs, feet, or facial muscles. Lastly, talcum powder poisoning can cause blisters, blue skin around the lips and fingernails.
Talc: One of the Military’s Most Important Weapons
As a veteran, I can attest from experience that with talcum powder, military operations would come to a screeching halt. A soldier would never travel anywhere without his powder. We need our powder to prevent jock itch, toe jam, or trench foot. A soldier not having their powder can be worse than not having a weapon. Talcum powder reduces the change of getting sick, and a sick soldier is an useless soldier, weapon or not.
I hope you learned all you didn’t want to know about talc and find this useful. Prepare yourself for more useless drivel in the future. Peace!