Johnson's Baby Powder Fiasco: What Experts Have To Say

The world-famous Johnson's baby powder is under the scanner for suspected presence of asbestos. This prompted us to reach out to experts to understand what is going on. Here's what they have to say.

By Team ParentCircle  • 9 min read

Johnson's Baby Powder Fiasco: What Experts Have To Say

Johnson & Johnson, a renowned brand of baby bath and body products that include talcum powder, shampoo, soap, lotion and cream, has yet again come under the scanner. Shockingly, it is alleged that their baby talcum powder contains cancer-causing asbestos.

India's top drug regulators have swung into action and showed up at various manufacturing facilities to take samples of this talc for further tests and clinical evaluation.

In this regard, ParentCircle conducted a snap survey within the parenting community to find out how parents responded to this news. Interestingly, 31 per cent of the parents were already aware of the controversies surrounding Johnson & Johnson, but 28 per cent of them were shocked to know this. An equal number of parents also wanted to know more. Further, 11 per cent of them apparently do not use baby powder for their children and 2 per cent did not trust the controversial report.

Hence, to give a better picture to our dear parents we reached out to a few experts to hear their perceptive views on this alarming matter. Hear what they have to say.

1. Dr Kavita Gohil, Paediatrician, Mumbai

“As per regulatory norms, it is imperative that talcum powder meets the set standards of pharmaceutical-grade quality — to be approved for human use. Hence, legally speaking, the talc needs to be asbestos-free to be of pharmaceutical grade. This calls for stricter regulations from the Food and Drug Administrations (FDAs) to make it a mandate that various products are checked regularly and maintained at the highest standards.
That being said, research and studies carried out for many years on the risk factor of talc causing cancer have been inconclusive.
People have been using it for ages, out of which a certain number of them end up with a malignancy or cancer. The number of people who have been using baby products in conjunction to the number of people facing health issues is disproportionate.
For instance, at the age of 65, if a certain someone is battling cancer, you cannot pinpoint and say that the talcum powder he used caused it. There are so many factors at play and to be considered in such situations.
More research and in-depth analysis are necessitated to assess the causes of cancer and its connection with talc, to form a clearer picture. In all fairness, we are all exposed to toxic chemicals and carcinogens in one way or the other, on a regular basis from various sources.
However, the general advice I give to parents, in terms of cosmetic products for babies, is to use talcum powder sparingly and minimally since it is actually not required at all for babies and young children. Body odour and hygiene-related issues are not major concerns in kids of a young age. With usage of talcum powder on kids, there are also chances that the baby inhales and ingests the powder, which is not advisable for his health. However, since some habits do die hard, if at all parents do want to use talc on their baby, I recommend that they do so minimally. Dab a bit of powder on the baby by hand and wipe off the rest.”

2. Shahnaz Husain, Padmashri aware-winner and internationally-acclaimed beauty and personal care expert, New Delhi

“I do not want to comment on the controversy. However, in my opinion, one should go for organic baby products of a reputed brand. For any product, always check the labels and ingredients thoroughly before using it.
The skin of babies and infants is very tender and should be cared for keeping in mind seasonal changes. Some common skin problems that babies and infants can have are chapping, ‘crawler’s knee’, rubbed elbows and diaper rash. A scaly condition of the scalp, known as 'cradle cap' is also common among babies. Hence, select products that contain natural emollients and moisturisers to address these dryness-related issues.
Ayurveda advocates the choice of oil according to the season we experience. I feel that pure olive oil is good for babies, because it has a gentle effect on them. It is light and easily absorbed by the skin. Avoid heavily perfumed oils for babies. Also, avoid using too much talcum powder, as it can settle in the folds of a baby’s skin.
During the winter months particularly, a baby’s skin can get chapped very easily; so go easy on soap as it tends to dry out the skin. Massage the baby’s skin before bath with oil and apply baby lotion afterwards. Baby cream may be applied on chapped areas as and when required.”

3. Dr Subashini Mohan, Dermatologist, Chennai

“A baby’s skin is tender and growing, unlike an adult’s skin. Predominantly, it is safer to use baby products that are fragrance-free and mild, so that the skin does not have any adverse reactions to it. A baby product’s efficacy primarily depends on its set of ingredients and composition.
Further, depending on the baby’s health condition and how prone she is to skin infections or allergies, doctors prescribe baby products with the right composition of ingredients, best suited for the baby. In terms of talcum powder per se, although it has been used safely for years together, it is not an essential part of skin care routine for babies.
It is common practice to use talcum powder liberally to absorb perspiration, but inhalation of talc particles may cause allergic respiratory issues in infants. If at all one prefers to use it, better to opt for a mild, fragrance-free talc. Starch-based powder also serves as a safer alternative.
With regards to the ongoing J&J controversy, I feel that one cannot pick on one brand without scrutinising the others, as we are unaware of the safety factor of other cosmetic products in the market.”

Insightful, wasn’t it? We heard what the experts have to say. What are your thoughts on this? Please feel free to participate here.

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