The Canadian government plans to impose new restrictions on certain talc products following an exhaustive government report that concluded it could be dangerous.

A final screening assessment issued April 22 found that talc’s use as a powder in many self-care products and for some feminine care products “may be harmful to human health,” according to a government fact sheet. Studies have linked talc inhalation to mesothelioma because asbestos is commonly found in talc, and its use in feminine care has been linked to ovarian cancer.

The final report was composed by Health Canada — roughly equivalent to the FDA — and Environment and Climate Change Canada, which is analogous to the EPA.

Report Aligns With Earlier Draft

The report’s findings generally match a December 2018 draft report, which said that talc doesn’t pose a risk to the environment but could endanger human health in some cases and should be added to the country’s Toxic Substances List. This assessment was also expressed by Health Canada Director Nicole Davidson, who spoke during a 10-minute government conference call April 22 announcing the planned policy changes.

“Canada is the first country in the world to propose action to help manage the human health risks of talc based on concerns related to ovarian cancer and lung effects for all age groups.” — Health Canada Advisory

Toward this end, our neighbors to the north intend to strengthen restrictions on talc by tweaking its entry in the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist, a listing of ingredients with restrictions on use, according to government officials. Talc already appears on the list with warnings to keep it away from children and prevent children from inhaling it. Government officials did not say during the conference call what heightened restrictions they might impose on talc’s use, and the report did not mention any specific policy proposals.

Canada also plans to modify talc’s entry in the Natural Health Products Ingredients Database. Again, officials did not share what changes could be in the offing.

Affected Products

The planned restrictions would apply to products such as baby powders, after-shower powders, face powders, cosmetics, genital deodorants, body wipes, rash creams, bath bombs and bubble baths. It would not apply to other uses, such as in food, industrial uses, paper products or plastic products, as none of these uses have shown evidence of harm, government officials said during the conference call.

There will be a 60-day public comment period on the report’s findings before government officials consider when to impose the intended restrictions. In the meantime, Davidson advised Canadians to check the ingredient lists of favored products and, if needed, speak with a physician about any potential risks.

First in the World

Talc is found in roughly 6,500 products across Canada, according to a 2017 estimate. The advisory states that Canada is the “first country in the world to propose action to help manage the human health risks of talc based on concerns related to ovarian cancer and lung effects for all age groups.”

There are no talc-specific restrictions on products in the U.S., either at the federal or state level, although major manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson have largely pulled powder-based talc products from U.S. stores over litigation fears. Talc is still commonly found in cosmetics, however.

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