Researchers report that exposure to talc is a health hazard and should be closely monitored.

There is insufficient awareness of the health risks caused by the inhalation of talc, and this lack of awareness needs to be addressed urgently, according to research presented at ERS 2015.

Dr Jos Rooijackers, a pulmonologist from the Netherlands Expertise Centre for Occupational Respiratory Diseases (NECORD), studied workers in a chocolate products factory where talc (hydrated magnesium silicate) was used regularly in the manufacturing process, and in which one worker had already been diagnosed with the pulmonary disease talcosis (inflammation in the lungs).

Damage is progressive with ongoing exposure and may lead to lung fibrosis and respiratory failure. In some cases, the steroidal anti-inflammatory drug prednisone may help sufferers.

“Although talcosis is a well known health effect of talc inhalation in such industries as mining, the risk was not recognised by the company, since talc is considered to be a harmless food additive and safe overall,” says Dr Rooijackers. “As soon as an employee was diagnosed with talcosis caused by occupational exposure the company became concerned about the health risks to its employees posed by talc use.”

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