Long story short, definitely not. There’s a reason why baby powder or talcum powder is not meant for eating. It may not kill you immediately if ingested or inhaled. But it will certainly lead to a lot of serious health problems.
I’m friends with someone who used to crave baby powder. She is 40 now and still alive but has lung problems. When I heard about this weird craving, I was less grossed out and more curious, to be honest.
So I decided to do some digging and found out why some people relish something as absurd as baby powder.
So here’s the deal:
Why Would Anyone Eat Baby Powder?
I asked myself the exact same question before I began researching for this piece. Upon some initial digging, I found out that it’s not a rare phenomenon.
Craving for non-edible, non-nutritive items like chalk, sand, paper, crayon, toothpaste, and baby powder could be due to a medical condition called pica.
The most common cause of pica is nutritional deficiency. If you or anyone you know is craving for baby powder, they are most likely to be deficient in iron.
Iron deficiency is a very common issue with pregnant women and anemic people.
In this case, taking dietary supplements can resolve the issue for good. Combining it with iron-rich foods can be a healthy way to deal with baby powder craving.
Apart from nutritional deficiency, an underlying mental health condition like obsessive compulsive disorder can also be a probable cause of pica. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can effectively help a pica patient to distinguish between edible and non-edible items.
Whatever the underlying cause for baby powder craving may be, rest assured that it is nothing to be ashamed of. Pica can be treated successfully. You just have to want to de-addict yourself.
Let me give you a couple of good reasons why you should actively try to steer clear of baby powder and seek medical help if needed:
Can Eating Baby Powder Kill You?
No worries, eating baby powder won’t straight up kill you, especially if it’s a cornstarch-based baby powder. Not that I recommend eating it anyway, though. However, talcum powder can be potentially harmful in more ways than you can think.
Talcum powder contains talc which is a clay mineral. Ingesting clay minerals is generally considered to be harmless.
However, talc that contains asbestos is carcinogenic to humans, says the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Asbestos contamination of the talc entirely depends on the geographic location of the talc deposit.
Inhaling baby powder, be it talcum or cornstarch-based, is way more dangerous than eating it. The thing is, one can accidentally inhale some of it while trying to polish off a handful of baby powder.
This could lead to coughing, breathing problem, chest pain, and even diarrhea, especially for pregnant women.
If your baby has accidentally swallowed a little bit of talcum powder, don’t worry about it too much. Wash the baby’s mouth carefully with your finger. To prevent them from inhaling the powder, don’t use baby powder on their face.
Baby Powder and Cancer
JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder, the most popular baby powder to ever exist, contains cosmetic talc. Their iconic baby powder faced severe backlash and numerous lawsuits between 1972-75 for allegedly selling asbestos-contaminated baby powder.
In 1982, a study hinted at a link between the long-term use of talc-based cosmetics in female genitalia and ovarian cancer. Prolonged exposure to asbestos can also lead to mesothelioma and other deadly forms of cancer.
In 2018, Johnson & Johnson was found guilty by the jury and they had to pay $37 million in damages to the plaintiff.
So, What to Use Instead of Talcum Powder?
I did not mention all these spine-chilling studies about the link between asbestos-tainted baby powder and cancer to trigger a panic attack. Applying a small amount of baby powder on a baby’s buttocks to cure diaper rashes is totally safe.
Still, I would suggest swapping cornstarch-based baby powder with talcum powder. That way, even if someone ingests it in small amounts, it won’t pose asbestos-related health hazards.
Kaolin clay, baking soda, rice starch, tapioca starch, oat flour are better and safer alternatives to talcum powder for treating diaper rashes, absorbing sweat, and poop smell.
If you have to use talc-based powder, use it sparingly, far away from the face. And if you or someone you know is seriously addicted to baby powder, I strongly recommend seeking medical attention.
I haven’t heard of or read about anyone dying of eating baby powder. But this addiction can have some serious consequences, so no, you can’t and shouldn’t eat baby powder.