Talc - information sheet

CAS Registry Number 14807-96-6

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Overview

  • The Government of Canada conducted a science-based evaluation, called a screening assessment, to address the potential for harm to Canadians and to the environment from potential exposure to talc.
  • Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), the risk posed by a substance is determined by considering both its hazardous properties (its potential to cause adverse human health or ecological effects) and the amount of exposure there is to people and the environment. A substance may have hazardous properties; however, the risk to human health or to the environment may be low depending upon the level of exposure.
  • The ecological hazard and exposure potentials of talc were classified using the Ecological Risk Classification of Inorganic Substances (ERC-I) Approach.
  • The majority of uses of talc in Canada were not identified as a concern; the focus of this assessment is inhalation and genital exposure to certain self-care products (which includes cosmetics, natural health products and non-prescription drugs) containing cosmetic or pharmaceutical grade talc.
  • As a result of this draft screening assessment, the Government is proposing that talc may be harmful to human health, but not to the environment.

About this substance

  • This draft screening assessment focuses on the substance talc. It is being assessed under the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP).
  • The Government gathers information on substances, including details on sources and uses in Canada, to support the risk assessment and management of substances under the CMP.
  • Talc is a naturally occurring mineral with underground deposits found in most provinces in Canada, as well as in many other countries.
  • In Canada, talc is used in adhesives and sealants; automotive, aircraft and transportation applications; building or construction materials; ceramics; electrical and electronics; textiles; floor coverings; ink, toner and colourants; lubricants and greases; mixtures or manufactured items; oil and natural gas extraction; paints and coatings; paper and paper products; plastic and rubber materials; process additives; toys, playground and sporting equipment; water treatment; and may be used as a component in food packaging materials.
  • Talc is also an ingredient in self-care products, and is a permitted food additive.
  • The major uses in Canada align with major global uses of talc.

Human and ecological exposures

  • Canadians may be exposed to talc through:
    • inhalation (breathing in) with the use of certain self-care products, namely loose powders that contain talc such as body powder, baby powder, face powder, and foot powder; and
    • genital exposure to self-care products that contain talc such as body powder, baby powder, diaper and rash creams, genital antiperspirants and deodorants, body wipes, and bath bombs.
  • Inhalation exposure from other self-care products such as pressed powders (for example, face make-up) are not expected since formation of a ‘dust cloud’ is not anticipated during use.
  • Inhalation exposure resulting from industrial and commercial uses of talc was not identified to be of concern for human health, given the limited number of sites producing and processing talc in Canada.
  • Oral exposure to talc from certain uses (for example, as a food additive) is also expected to be minimal.
  • Although there is potential for dermal contact with talc, the substance is not expected to be absorbed through the skin due to physical-chemical characteristics.
  • Ecological exposure of talc was characterized in the ERC-I Approach, using information from the Domestic Substances List inventory updates, and Canada Border Services Agency.

Key health and ecological effects (hazard)

  • Talc has been reviewed internationally by other organizations, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, among others. These assessments informed this human health risk assessment of talc.
  • The IARC has classified perineal use of talc-based body powder as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).
  • In this draft assessment of talc, non-cancer lung effects (for example, difficulty breathing and scarring of the lungs) and a link to ovarian cancer were identified as the “critical” or important effects for characterizing the inhalation and genital application risk to human health.
  • There were no critical health effects identified for oral and dermal routes of exposure.
  • Ecological hazard was characterized in the ERC-I Approach. A comparative approach using similar chemicals, called read-across, was used for assessing potential ecological effects. Talc was identified as having low ecological hazard potential.

Risk assessment outcomes

  • The focus of this draft screening assessment is on inhalation and genital exposure to certain self-care products containing talc.
  • According to the draft screening assessment, talc may pose a risk to human health:
    • as determined by a comparison of levels to which Canadians may be exposed to loose powders containing talc and levels associated with non-cancer lung effects, which may lead to a decrease in lung function; and
    • as genital talc use has been indicated as a possible cause of ovarian cancer.
  • As no critical health effects were identified for talc through oral or dermal routes of exposure, exposure from food intake or the dermal use of self-care products was not identified as a concern. Also, inhalation exposures from industrial and commercial uses of talc were not identified to be of concern for human health.
  • The ERC-I approach characterized talc as having low ecological concern.
  • Talc is proposed to meet the persistence criteria, but not the bioaccumulation criteria, as set out in the Persistence and Bioaccumulation Regulations of CEPA 1999.
  • The Government of Canada published the Draft Screening Assessment for Talc on December 8, 2018. The public is invited to comment on this report, during the 60-day public comment period ending on February 6, 2019.

Proposed screening assessment conclusions

  • As a result of this draft screening assessment, the Government is proposing that talc may be harmful to human health.
  • The Government is also proposing that talc is not entering the environment at levels that are harmful to the environment.

Preventive actions and reducing risk

  • If the proposed conclusion is confirmed in the final screening assessment, the Government intends to add talc to Schedule 1 of CEPA 1999, also called the List of Toxic Substances.
  • The Government published the Risk Management Scope for Talc on December 8, 2018. The public is invited to comment on this publication, during the 60-day public comment period ending on February 6, 2019.
  • If the proposed conclusion is confirmed in the final screening assessment, the Government will consider the following actions to help address the health concerns mentioned in the draft screening assessment:
    • Modifying the existing entry for talc on the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist by prohibiting or restricting it in certain cosmetics which can be inhaled or used on the genital area.
    • Modifying the existing entry(ies) in the Natural Health Products Ingredients Database and impacted monographs to reduce exposures from talc in certain natural health products and non-prescription drug products which can be inhaled or used on the genital area.
    • Communications to the public to help avoid inhalation or genital exposure to talc.
  • Further information and updates on risk management actions for substances managed under the CMP can be found in the risk management actions table and the two year rolling risk management activities and consultations schedule.

Related information

  • Canadians should follow any safety warnings and directions on product labels, including cosmetics. Some warning labels may include, but are not limited to; "keep out of reach of children" and "keep powder away from child's face to avoid inhalation which can cause breathing problems" and “not intended for use on broken skin”.
  • Canadians should refer to the talc (for consumers) web page for further information.
  • Report a cosmetic-related health or safety related issue to Health Canada.
  • Canadians who may be exposed to talc in the workplace should consult with their employer and an occupational health and safety (OHS) representative about safe handling practices, applicable laws, and requirements under OHS legislation and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).
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