Consumer talcums and powders: mineral and chemical characterization

J Toxicol Environ Health. 1976 Nov;2(2):255-84. doi: 10.1080/15287397609529432.


Representative consumer talcums and powders, including 20 body powders, baby powders, facial talcums, and also one pharmaceutical talc, were analyzed to determine their mineralogical and chemical composition. Where known, all were formulated prior to 1973. Of the 20 products 10 contained detectable amounts of tremolite and anthophyllite, principally asbestiform, while some also contained fragmented forms of these minerals. The amounts ranged from tenths of a percent to over 14% by weight; two contained detectable amounts of chrysotile asbestos fiber. Eight contained quartz, seven ranging from 2 to 5%, with one as high as 35%. The analyses showed that the consumer products examined were rarely the pure mineral talc, but rather were mixtures of various minerals; some samples consisted of three to five minerals, only one of which was talc. Other common mineral phases included chlorite, platy serpentine, pyrophyllitem mica, and carbonate minerals. Kaolin additive was identified in two products. The single pharmaceutical talc examined contained only a trace amount of quartz. The chemical composition of these products, including both major oxide and trace element content, correlated with their mineral components. Four samples contained substantial concentrations of nickel, cobalt, and chromium, suggesting latice substitution or the presence of trace mineral phases. Geological provenance of the talcs may be ascertained on the basis of chemistry. Possible adverse health effects from intermittent use of these products, especially those that contain asbestiform and fragmented anthophyllite and tremolite, chrysotile, quartz, and trace metals, are presently unknown and warrnat evaluation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos / analysis
  • Cosmetics / analysis
  • Industry
  • Microscopy
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Minerals / analysis*
  • Oxides / analysis
  • Quartz / analysis
  • Talc / analysis*
  • X-Ray Diffraction


  • Cosmetics
  • Minerals
  • Oxides
  • Asbestos
  • Talc
  • Quartz