Throughout the time of its peak use in the UK, asbestos material was to be found in almost every type of building construction and manufactured product. Despite growing asbestos awareness and concern amongst study groups and medical practioners, industry employers continued to work extensively with the deadly mineral.
The horrific consequences of continual asbestos exposure would not surface until 15-50 years later, with the appearance of asbestosis symptoms or the more aggressive and terminal mesothelioma cancer, which led to the countless thousands of asbestosis claims, which continue to this day.
Until its final ban in the late 1970s, all forms of asbestos were much used until the 1980s as extremely low cost, profitable insulation, which gave durability and a high level of fire and heat resistance. The usage list extended to a multitude of everyday, household items, including the most unlikely of products, from PVC, nylon and corrugated paper to gloves, curtains, wallpaper, clothes irons and hair dryers, potting mixtures, popcorn – and even babypowder!
Utilised in a variety of industrial products to keep down costs and as a ‘quality improver’, talcum powder – found in baby powder – is also used in a variety of industrial products, ranging from construction materials, plastics, rubber and coatings, to paper-making, pharmaceuticals and agriculture.
Working with or handling talcum powder has been shown to cause a serious health risk because it contains identical small fibres, with a similar fatal effect as asbestos, which are not removed in the powder making process. The fibres are considered as carcinogenic and studies have shown the association of talcum powder with an increased risk of urinary tract disorders and ovarian cancer.
Talcum powder is useful because it eliminates moisture in the rubber product industries where a strict health and safety policy of risk assessment should ensure workplace ventilation is adequate and personal safety equipment, such as masks and protective clothing should be worn at all times.