When talking with patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, there are a certain percentage of people that never know how they acquired the disease. There is no known asbestos exposure in their past that they can identify. For some it is a mystery that remained a mystery.
Recently we saw a pleural mesothelioma patient who has had a complicated post-op course. She is currently in rehab and looks fabulous! She is recovering and regaining her strength. She has not been able to link any risk factors to mesothelioma. Her job has not been in one of the known occupations that increase the risk of mesothelioma. She has been a long-term user of talc and powders that contain talc. Could this have been her exposure that led to her developing malignant mesothelioma?
Recent attention in the news has now linked the use of talc to the development of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
Talc is a naturally occurring mineral, it is known as the softest mineral. One of the reasons for this is that it can absorb moisture and be crushed to a powder that is used in “talcum powder.” Another form of talc is soapstone. Soapstone is used to make sculptures, bowls, countertops and many other objects. These are the two forms that most people think of when they think of talc usage. Talc usage is in many products and used as a filter in many. The most common use of talc in the United States is in the manufacturing of plastics, accounting for around 26% of total talc use. Approximately 17% of talc consumption is used as a filler in ceramic products such as bathroom fixtures. Talc is used in a variety of products including paint, paper, cosmetics, antiperspirants. It is also used in roofing materials to improve the resistance to the weather. It is also used as a carrier for insecticides and fungicides it can be blown through a nozzle and sticks to the leaves and stems of plants.
Talc is also commonly found in baby powder and in cosmetics. Talc is also used in rice and chewing gum and in some tablets. It is used to absorb moisture, prevent caking, or to improve the feel of a product.
Cosmetic products and the ingredients that are in them, do not have to undergo FDA approval before they go on the market. The cosmetic company is responsible for the safety and labeling of their products and for the ingredients in them. Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act the companies are not required to share their safety information with the FDA.
What is talc? Talc is a naturally occurring mineral. The ingredients that make up talc are magnesium, silicon, oxygen and hydrogen. Talc is mined in the United States from an open pit. Most of the talc deposits in the United States are in metamorphic rocks on the eastern side of the Appalachian Mountains or in Washington, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, and New Mexico and Texas. China leads the world in production of talc.
Asbestos is also a naturally occurring mineral. Talc and asbestos occur naturally and are often intertwined in the ground. Since asbestos is a known carcinogen, and since asbestos is known to be present in talc deposition, this issue of asbestos and talc has been studied for many decades. However, it is only recently that the issue of asbestos and talc has received media attention through a number of legal cases. There have also been recent legal cases involving talc and ovarian cancer that have given attention to this issue as well.
This connection of the use of talc and the development of mesothelioma can possibly be the answer for some patients who have already been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. For those who have had no answer to the development of their disease, the issues that have come out about asbestos in talc could help in answering these lingering questions.