THE FDA STILL IGNORES THE LETHAL RISKS OF TALCUM
CHICAGO, IL, MARCH 24, 2008 --/WORLD-WIRE/-- Up to 20 percent of U.S. pre-menopausal women regularly dust their
genital area, sanitary pads or contraceptive diaphragms with cosmetic grade
Manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, and widely
distributed by Osco and Walgreens, besides other drug stores, women have been
persuaded by advertisements to dust themselves to mask alleged genital odors.
Not surprisingly, talcum powder has become a symbol of freshness and
cleanliness for over five decades.
On November 17, 1994, the Chicago-based Cancer Prevention
Coalition and the New York Center for Constitutional Rights submitted a
Citizen Petition to the FDA, “Seeking Carcinogenic Labeling on all Cosmetic
Talc Products.” The Petition was endorsed by Dr. Quentin Young, Chairman of
The Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, by the Ovarian Cancer Early
Detection and Prevention Foundation, and subsequently by Senator Edward
Kennedy. In a 1997 statement to the Senate, he requested the FDA to place a
cancer warning on the label of talc products, besides other products
containing known carcinogens. However, over a decade later this warning
Based on 15 publications in leading scientific journals
dating back to the 1960’s, the Petition explicitly warned of “increased rates
of ovarian cancer resulting from frequent exposure to cosmetic grade talc.”
After over a year’s delay, the Petition was rejected by Dr. John Bailey,
FDA’s past Director of the Office of Cosmetics and Colors, and currently
Director of the industry’s The Personal Care Products Council. Since then,
the strong relation between the genital use of talc powder and ovarian cancer
has been endorsed by over 40 further scientific publications. These have
reported increased risks ranging from 35% to 90%.
Of particular interest is a 1971 report on the
identification of talc particles in ovarian cancers, a finding contested by
Dr. G.Y. Hildick Smith, Johnson & Johnson’s medical Director. However, a
subsequent publication in the prestigious The Lancet warned that “The
potentially harmful effects of talc . . . in the ovary . . . should not be
ignored.” This warning was further supported by a 2004 report on the major
risk of ovarian cancer in talc users. However, there was no such risk in
women whose fallopian tubes had been tied, blocking the access of talc dust
to the ovaries.
Not surprisingly, the mortality of ovarian cancer for women
over the age of 65, a relatively rare cancer at any age, has escalated
dramatically over the last three decades, by 12% for white, and 32% for black
women. It should further be noted that there are about 15,300 deaths from ovarian
cancer each year. This makes it the fourth most common fatal cancer in women,
after breast, colon and lung.
Nevertheless, the industry and, worse still the FDA, remain
recklessly unresponsive to these dangers. The FDA has neither banned the
genital use of talcum powder, nor required industry to label it with explicit
warnings. This is all the more inexcusable since cosmetic grade starch powder
is a readily available safe alternative.
Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition
Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine
University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
Quentin Young, M.D., MACP
Chairman, Health and Medicine Policy Research Group