In a March Instagram post Desperate Housewives’ star Marcia Cross speaks to the link between baby powder and cancer, urging women not to use baby powder in their perineal (genital) area.

“I lost my oldest friend Jackie to ovarian cancer today. Please keep up on doctors appts and please DO NOT USE BABY POWDER on your PRIVATES,” Cross wrote beneath a photo of her friend.

Why is Cross so concerned about baby powder?

Baby, or talcum powder, is made from talc, a naturally-occurring mineral. When talc is mined it can become contaminated with asbestos which is often found nearby. 

Asbestos is a known carcinogen that causes cancer in and around the lungs when inhaled. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies asbestos-contaminated talcum powder as “carcinogenic to humans.”

Some suggest that contaminated baby powder particles could potentially migrate through the vaginal canal, uterus and fallopian tubes to reach the ovaries where the asbestos could cause ovarian cancer, but the science on this so far is inconclusive.

At this point, the IARC classifies the perineal (genital area) use of baby powder as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Despite the inconclusive classification of baby powder usage in the perineal region as carcinogenic, the scientific findings seem to be good enough for juries.

In December, a Missouri jury ordered manufacturer Johnson and Johnson to pay a whopping $4.69 billion to 22 women who claimed, for the first time in a courtroom, that exposure to asbestos-contaminated baby powder had caused their ovarian cancer, as reported by The New York Times and other outlets.

That same month, Reuters reported that Johnson and Johnson had known for decades that their baby powder was sometimes contaminated with asbestos yet concealed this knowledge from regulators and the general public.

As baby powder undergoes further investigation, court cases demanding justice for talc-related ovarian cancer forge onward. To stay updated on regulatory measures and action taken by advocates surrounding this issue, visit our topic page.