Talc (Mg3Si4O10(OH)2) is a naturally occurring layered hydroxylated magnesium silicate mineral that is widely used in diverse manufacturing applications due to its relatively low cost, chemical inertness, and soft, absorptive properties. Talc is a phyllosilicate, a specific subclass of silicate minerals, and is composed of alternating crystalline sheets bonded to each other with weak van der Waals bonds, making talc easy to cleave and lending to its platy nature.

Commercial talc is typically described in two grades: industrial and cosmetic. Cosmetic talc generally consists of relatively pure platiform talc, whereas industrial talc may be either platiform or fibrous, and may contain other mineral ores and silicates. Asbestos may co-occur or appear as a contaminant of natural talc deposits and, therefore, talc-related research often includes discussion of asbestos.

Exponent's Talc-related Experience

Exponent’s staff has considerable experience in various aspects of talc-related research. Our expertise includes evaluation of the health risks associated with potential exposures to talc, whether cosmetic or industrial.
Our experience includes exposure assessment / modeling, epidemiology, industrial hygiene, toxicology, human health risk assessment, and alternative causation analysis as well as materials science. Exponent has applied this expertise to analyses of talc-related issues in the occupational, para-occupational (e.g., bystander), and domestic (user and take-home) environments. We also have several licensed physicians and registered nurses on staff who can aid in the review of medical records and evaluation of differential diagnoses. Exponent’s materials scientists have experience in reconstructing and evaluating historical products for purposes of exposure simulation.

Exponent scientists have been involved in health risk assessments of industrial talc in various products, such as automotive body fillers, carpenter’s water putty, and gypsum products, and in tire-manufacturing facilities. We also have expertise on how the use of cosmetic talc products (baby powder, talcum powder, and facial powder) relates to health risk, especially mesothelioma. Additionally, we have been involved in matters related to ovarian cancer risk, including discussion of the likelihood that perineally applied talc can gain access to the ovary based on the anatomy and physiology of the female reproductive tract. 

Exponent’s staff is well acquainted with the available scientific literature and issues related to numerous historic talc-containing products. We have performed numerous exposure simulations to measure and characterize potential exposures from specific products, including the use of cosmetic talcum powder, to re-create and estimate potential exposures and risks incurred during use. In addition, Exponent scientists have collaborated with other researchers to develop specialized quantitative techniques for evaluating the plausibility of contributions of metal-based particulates (e.g., talc particles) to tissue pathological responses. 

Recent Exponent Publications

Anderson EL, Sheehan PJ, Kalmes RM, Griffin JR. 2017. Assessment of health risk from historical use of cosmetic talcum powder. Risk Anal 37(5):918–929.