Baby Powders

by Sadie Childs Cora & the Fluff Love Admin Team

With the publicity surrounding Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and several lawsuits related to its use, the admin team decided to dig a little bit deeper into concerns about the safety of baby powder in general, and Johnson & Johnson’s powder in particular.  The safety of babies and families is important to us, and we are very careful to recommend only products that are safe when used as intended.

Some of our members have asked us if we will continue to recommend Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder as safe for cloth diapers.  As with any product, we recommend that our members consult with their pediatrician and do their own research to make sure that they are comfortable with any product they are using.  With that disclaimer, we will continue to state that baby powder is safe for cloth diapers for those who choose to use it.  Fluff Love & CD Science does not enter into debates about others’ parenting choices; we believe that our members will arm themselves with the information that they need in order to make the best choices for their families.  We hope that you will consult with your pediatrician for advice about what products to use, and we will continue to evaluate products’ impact on cloth diapers.

The lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson have a lot of scary-sounding information. First of all, the most concerning ingredient in baby powder is talc. Current formulations of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder contain corn starch, (although there are still baby powders on the market that do contain talc produced by other companies). Next, it’s important to note that there are two kinds of talc. One kind of talc does contain asbestos and that is linked to cancer, especially when inhaled. However, since the 1970s, cosmetic products only contain talc certified by USP (United States Pharmacopeia) and the FDA as pure and not containing asbestos.

The lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson’s are linked to longterm use of baby powder prior to 1970, and are related to the allegation that the company was aware that it was using talc containing asbestos in baby powder, and did not warn users of the product of the danger.  The plaintiffs in the lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson’s claim that they got reproductive cancer as a result of many years, often decades, of use of baby powder, often internally (applied to a diaphragm that was inserted vaginally).  Several studies have been conducted about the use of talcum powder and reproductive cancer.  Some have found a very slight correlation and others have found none.  It is important to emphasize that talcum powder available today does not contain asbestos.  

There are still some concerns about using any baby powder, even when it is 100% corn starch.  These concerns center around the risk of respiratory issues if an infant does inhale the powder, and lead to the American Academy of Pediatrics advising against its use, especially with babies at high risk of respiratory problems.  Because talc is such a fine, light powder it is more easily inhaled.  Other alternative powders, such as cornstarch, have heavier particles but can still become airborne, resulting in inhalation.  For those who choose to use any dusting powder as part of their baby care routine, it is recommended that the powder be applied first to the hand, away from baby, to reduce the powder’s ability become airborne.