Talc is a mineral that is not soluble in water. It is commonly found in soapstone and can be mined. While there are concerns that talc can cause or exacerbate certain types of cancer, it is recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as safe for use. Talc is used throughout the home in cosmetics, soaps, paper, ceramics and food additives.
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Many baby powder products use talc as their main ingredient. The powders are used to absorb moisture, and while most people associate the powder with protecting babies' bottoms, the powder has many other uses. Some people use baby powder as an oil-stain remover. By sprinkling or dabbing the powder on the affected area then cleaning the powder off, you can lift the oil out of clothing, couches or carpets. It also lifts oil out of hair, so some people use it to boost their hair's shine in between washes. There is a tentative link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, according to PreventCancer.com, so use caution if you plan to use it.
Antacids such as Tums use talc. The tablets are used to increase the pH levels in the stomach, relieving heartburn and other acute stomach ailments brought on by too much acid in the system, such as indigestion, gastritis and certain kinds of ulcers. Talc is not the only ingredient in antacids. Most are calcium, sodium, magnesium or aluminum-based. Regardless, many over-the-counter antacids contain talc as it helps with absorption.
Many use talcum powder as a pesticide or insect repellent. It works by drying the insects out completely. It can also clog their pores, killing them by suffocation. Many people choose to use the powder to attempt to eliminate the pests without using registered poisons or calling in an exterminator. Some insects, like ants, will not cross a talcum powder line. Others will cross it and perish. It is easy to then clean up these pests simply by vacuuming.
Talc is used in crayons as a binding agent. It increases crayon strength, allowing for pressure to be applied without the wax breaking or splitting. It also improves durability, lengthening a crayon's lifespan. The transitional fibers found in talc can sometimes be confused with asbestos, but intensive testing has proved them safe. The fibers are thought to be completely safe for use in crayons and are not regulated by any federal organization.