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Is Talc Safe In Supplements?

Question:
Does the talc added to Centrum Silver and other vitamins pose a risk of cancer?

Answer:
Talc is added to supplements to prevent ingredients from clumping and sticking to machinery when forming tablets, and talc as a food additive is "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA, as explained in our article about Inactive Ingredients. Talc is not known to pose a risk of cancer when consumed from supplements.

There has been concern about talc potentially causing ovarian cancer, but such cases have generally been associated with the topical or genital use of talc, such as with talcum powder. Furthermore, these cases may relate to talc contaminated with asbestos fibers, as may occur during the mining of talc, and there is a concern of lung disease from continual inhalation of asbestos-contaminated talc.

Although the FDA does not provide specifications for the quality of talc to be used in supplements ("food-grade" talc) and cosmetics ("cosmetic-grade" talc), asbestos is a known carcinogen, so, technically, the FDA would consider it unacceptable if talc in these products was contaminated with asbestos. It has encouraged mining practices intended to keep talc free of asbestos, and tests by the FDA in 2009 through 2010 found no asbestos contamination in a limited sample of "cosmetic-grade" talc provided by suppliers and cosmetics containing talc.

Nevertheless, only if a supplement label lists its talc as "talc USP" does it mean that it is free of asbestos, as the USP has stringent requirements for talc, including no detectable asbestos. ConsumerLab has found that most supplements, including many popular multivitamins, do not list their talc as "USP" grade. However, this does not necessarily mean that these products contain asbestos or that they are unsafe.

Learn more about inactive ingredients in supplements:



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COMMENTS

Kayla17270   November 1, 2018
USP Talc may not contain asbestos, but it IS allowed to contain up to 10 PPM of Lead and up to 2% aluminum! (and maybe cosmetic grade talc contains even more?) And why is it allowed in Centrum Silver and not other Centrums? (or maybe it is - you only mentioned the 'Silver variety.)

I recently bought a supplement from a highly reputable Holistic place, and it contained talc. I was not happy! So I looked up the 'official stats' and was then even more unhappy, due to learning of the lead and aluminum allowances. I complained to the place I had purchased the product from, and much to their credit, they discontinued that product. Talc should NOT be used in any product that is to go into or onto our bodies. My very strong opinion....

ConsumerLab.com   November 1, 2018
Hi Kayla - FYI, regarding the lead that can occur in talc, in a 500 mg tablet, for example, 1% to 10% can be talc. Assuming the maximum amount of talc (10%) and the maximum amount of lead allowed in talc (10 ppm), the tablet could potentially contain up to 0.5 mcg of lead. Although that amount would not be harmful in itself, it's right at the limit allowed in California before a product requires a warning label for pregnant women. If you remain concerned about talc, the best advice would be to avoid tablets. Softgels, for example, typically don't contain talc.

Wallie 17057   August 8, 2018
I was wondering if talc is part of the bismuth family According to some testing (fecal) I tested high on bismuth as well as Platinum and mercury.
thank you for your response.

ConsumerLab.com   November 5, 2018
Hi Wallie - No, talc and bismuth are not related.


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This CL Answer initially posted on 8/1/2018.
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