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Talc-containing baby powder is a health risk

Severe health disturbances possible in the event of improper use

27.06.2011 |BfR- German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment

Talc-containing baby powder can cause severe health disturbances in babies and infants. If a baby or infant inadvertently inhales the powder, it can get to its lungs and lead to respiratory obstruction or even severe damage to the lungs.

 "A typical accident situation exists if the child lies on the back to have its nappy changed, the powder compact opens unintentionally and the powder trickles over the child", says Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). In order to avoid such accidents in future, the powder compacts should either be provided with safe closure systems or talc-containing baby powders should be banned.

The recommendation by BfR to ban talc-containing baby powder or to provide the compacts with safe closures was prompted by the severe poisoning of a two-year old girl. While its nappy was changed, the child played with a closed powder compact when the compact opened. The powder poured over the face of the little girl and was inhaled by her. The child then had to be treated in intensive care for several days.

Similar cases were reported to BfR in the past. During the period from 1979 to 2008 the poison control centres in Germany, Austria and Switzerland documented 113 aspiration accidents involving baby powder. In most cases the children were between six months and two years old. In the documented cases the children did not suffer any permanent damage.

According to many paediatricians the use of talc-containing baby powder is not necessary under a medical angle. In order to avoid aspiration accidents, BfR recommends, therefore, to provide the powder compacts with safe closure systems or to ban talc-containing baby powder.

About BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. BfR engages in own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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