Talcum powder is a powder made from a mineral called talc. Talcum powder poisoning may occur when someone breathes in or swallows talcum powder. This can be by accident or on purpose.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
Talc can be harmful if it is swallowed or breathed in.
Talc may be found in:
Other products may also contain talc.
Most symptoms of talcum powder poisoning are caused by breathing in (inhaling) talc dust, especially in infants. Sometimes this happens by accident or over a long period of time.
Breathing problems are the most common problem of inhaling talcum powder. Below are other symptoms of talcum powder poisoning in different parts of the body.
BLADDER AND KIDNEYS
EYES, EARS, NOSE, and THROAT
HEART AND BLOOD
STOMACH AND INTESTINES
Seek medical help right away. DO NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to. If the person breathed in the talcum powder, move them to fresh air right away.
Have this information ready:
Your local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Take the container to the hospital with you, if possible.
The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate.
The person may receive:
The person may be admitted to the hospital.
How well someone does depends on how much talcum powder they swallowed and how quickly they receive treatment. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery. Breathing in talcum powder can lead to very serious lung problems, even death.
Use caution when using talcum powder on babies. Talc-free baby powder products are available.
Workers who have regularly breathed in talcum powder over long periods of time have developed serious lung damage and cancer.
Injecting heroin that contains talc into a vein may lead to heart and lung infections and serious organ damage, and even death.
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services / Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.