Is Baby Powder Safe for Babies?

baby powder

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There are no medically necessary uses for baby powder. Baby powder is made from the mineral talc or corn starch and is used by many parents of infants or toddlers in order to keep diapered skin dry and rash-free. Research has shown that this practice may lead to breathing in of the fine powder particles, which make their way into the lungs and lead to respiratory problems. Other research has tied talc use to certain types of cancer.

Possible Health Effects of Daily Baby Powder Use

Several studies have been done on the possible health effects of talcum powder and baby powder use over the years. Many of the results have been inconclusive, however, there are two possible associations made that parents should know more about:

Respiratory Problems

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that the talc or cornstarch in baby powder can be particularly harmful to babies because they can breathe in the tiny particles in the powder, damaging their lungs.

As a parent changing upwards of 10 diapers a day, you could also be at risk for wheezing, coughing, and shallow breathing, or even chronic lung irritation. Both The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration maintain that inhalation of talc might be harmful to the lungs. More sensitive individuals may also develop symptoms of asthma or pneumonia due to continued and abundant use, although your usage would probably have to be in excess of what a diapering parent would normally use.

Cancer Concerns

While there has been some evidence of a connection between talc and cancer, it's still unclear whether there's a direct link.

The most-often cited risk surrounding the use of talc powder is a concern that it may make its way into a woman's reproductive tract. There have been reports of talc found in ovarian tumors, for example, in women who reported using baby powder daily on their genital areas.

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute did find that while there was no proven link between using talcum powder in the perineal (genital/bottom areas) and overall ovarian cancer risk, there was an association between talcum powder use and invasive ovarian cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer also classified talc-based body powder as “possibly carcinogenic to humans," putting baby powder on a list of a lot of other things that might cause cancer, including the whole-leaf extract of aloe vera.

Although we can't say for sure that baby powder causes cancer, there has been some association in a few studies, especially for females.

Using it Safely

For parents, this may mean that you might want to consider using extra caution when using baby powder, especially in girls, as the powder may travel up through the vagina, especially if you use a lot of it and apply it every day.

To prevent your baby from breathing in the baby powder, apply the baby powder to your hand first, away from your eyes, nose, and baby, then pat onto the skin around baby's genitals and legs (do not put directly on the genitals.)

Be sure to never shake baby powder onto your baby directly and always keep baby powder out of reach of your children.

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