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Asbestos in Baby Powder

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Topics Covered:

  1. Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

 

Asbestos in Baby Powder

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: About Asbestos and its use.
  • For Mains: Concerns over its use and need for a blanket ban.

 

Context: over 12,000 women in the US have sued Johnson & Johnson over claims that the talcum powder manufactured by them is the prime cause behind their ovarian cancer. A recent investigation by Reuters claimed that the talcum powder was contaminated by carcinogenic asbestos, making it poisonous and life-threatening for women using it on themselves.

 

What is talc, and why is asbestos relevant?

Talc is a mineral in clay mined from underground deposits. It’s the softest mineral known to man and that makes it useful in a wide range of consumer and industrial products.

Asbestos is also found underground, and veins of it can often be found in talc deposits, leading to a risk of cross-contamination, geologists say.

 

About Asbestos:

Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals, which all have in common their eponymous asbestiform habit: i.e., long (roughly 1:20 aspect ratio), thin fibrous crystals, with each visible fiber composed of millions of microscopic “fibrils” that can be released by abrasion and other processes.

They are commonly known by their colors, as blue asbestos, brown asbestos, white asbestos, and green asbestos.

 

Uses and applications:

  • Manufacturers and builders use asbestos for its desirable physical properties. Some of those properties are sound absorption, average tensile strength, affordability, and resistance to fire, heat, and electricity. It was used in such applications as electrical insulation for hotplate wiring and in building insulation.
  • When asbestos is used for its resistance to fire or heat, the fibers are often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats. These desirable properties led to asbestos being used very widely.

 

Health effects:

Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious and fatal illnesses including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis (a type of pneumoconiosis).

 

Sources: the hindu.