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Talcum powder products may be harmful to lungs, possible cause of ovarian cancer: feds

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TORONTO — Consumers are being warned to avoid inhaling talcum powder or using the products on the female genital area, as exposure may cause potentially serious respiratory problems  and possibly ovarian cancer.  
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  • TORONTO — Consumers are being warned to avoid inhaling talcum powder or using the products on the female genital area, as exposure may cause potentially serious respiratory problems  and possibly ovarian cancer.  

    Baby powder should also be kept away from a child’s face to avoid inhalation, Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada said Wednesday in releasing a draft screening assessment of products containing talc.

    The draft assessment focuses on the safety of talc in such self-care products as cosmetics; baby, body, face and foot powders; diaper and rash creams; and genital antiperspirants and deodorants.

    “When you inhale talc, the fine talc particles will get lodged inside of the lung, and over time there’s a cumulative effect associated with that,” said David Morin, director general of the safe environment directorate.

    Inhaling talc, a naturally occurring mineral, can cause difficulty breathing, decreased lung function and pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring of the lungs.

    Products containing talc have also been linked to ovarian cancer in some women, and the Canadian Cancer Society identifies its use on the female genitals as a possible risk factor for the malignancy.

    A number of class action lawsuits in the U.S. and Canada launched against Johnson & Johnson contend that longtime use of its talcum powder for feminine hygiene resulted in the development of the plaintiffs’ ovarian cancer. The cosmetics giant has denied its product, which has been on the market since 1894, causes the disease.   

    Despite studies suggesting a link, Health Canada has not mandated that labels on talc-containing products carry specific warnings about the possible link with the development of ovarian cancer or the respiratory risks to adults who inadvertently inhale talcum powder particles.

    Ottawa only requires label warnings related to the use of loose talc powder for infants and children, said Tolga Yalkin, head of the consumer products safety directorate.

    “Essentially, those warnings are: ‘Keep out of reach of children’ and ‘Keep out of the way of a child’s face to avoid inhalation, which can cause breathing problems,'” he said.

    The Canadian Paediatric Society also advises against the use of talcum powder — long used by parents to prevent diaper rash — for infants and babies.

    Muhannad Malas, toxics program manager for Environmental Defence, said Health Canada’s screening assessment shows that the effects of talc can be “really serious.”     

    “What we want to see here is some regulatory actions in terms of banning talcum powder in cosmetics and personal care products that pose significant risks to women and to children,” he said in an interview.

    The environmental action organization is also calling for “much stronger health warnings that would clearly identify the risks and clearly tell consumers why talcum is a problem and why we should avoid exposure to it,” he said. 

    Yalkin said the government is investigating the possibility of updating its cosmetic ingredient hotlist and possibly expanding warnings on product labels, but any decision would follow a 60-day consultation process and the final version of the screening assessment.

    The consultation will offer members of the public, talc-products manufacturers, academics and others to provide comment and information on the issue. Their input, as well as any new scientific evidence, will help inform the final assessment.

    “It’s possible you will see additional warnings that are mandated by Health Canada,” Yalkin said.

    Morin added that if the final screening assessment confirms that talc in certain products is harmful to human health, regulatory action will be taken to manage the identified risks.

    But Malas said he’s concerned about how long that process could take, from finalizing the screening assessment to taking regulatory action if deemed warranted.

    He said it took four to five years for the government to finalize a risk assessment for triclosan, an antibacterial chemical used in cleaning and personal care products, following release of its draft document, and another a few years more before it decided on what measures to take.

    “We want to avoid that,” he said. “I think what we’re looking for is some concrete and immediate actions in terms of reducing Canadians’ exposure, especially women’s exposure to talcum powder and also infants’ exposure.”

    Federal law requires companies to list the ingredients on cosmetic and personal care products, noted Yalkin.

    “So in the meantime, Canadians who are concerned about their exposure can check to see if (talc) is on the product that they’re considering using and make a decision accordingly.”

    The draft screening assessment will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, and will be open for public comment until Feb. 6. The Canada Gazette containing public notices, official appointments and proposed regulations from the federal government is published every Saturday, but available online Fridays at 2 p.m. Eastern time.

    — Follow @SherylUbelacker on Twitter.

    Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press




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    Focus on traumatized boys critical to gender equality, new research shows

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    TORONTO — Boys in poor urban areas around the world are suffering even more than girls from violence, abuse and neglect, groundbreaking international research published on Monday suggests.
    The study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, along with …


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  • TORONTO — Boys in poor urban areas around the world are suffering even more than girls from violence, abuse and neglect, groundbreaking international research published on Monday suggests.

    The study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, along with similar new research, suggests an adequate focus on helping boys is critical to achieving gender equality in the longer term.

    “This is the first global study to investigate how a cluster of traumatic childhood experiences known as ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences, work together to cause specific health issues in early adolescence, with terrible life-long consequences,” Dr. Robert Blum, the lead researcher for the global early adolescent study, said in a statement. “While we found young girls often suffer significantly, contrary to common belief, boys reported even greater exposure to violence and neglect, which makes them more likely to be violent in return.”

    The study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at childhood traumas suffered by 1,284 adolescents aged 10 to 14 in more than a dozen low-income urban settings around the world such as the United States, China, the U.K., Egypt and Bolivia.

    Overall, 46 per cent of young adolescents reported experiencing violence, 38 per cent said they suffered emotional neglect and 29 per cent experienced physical neglect. Boys, however, were more likely to report being victims of physical neglect, sexual abuse and violence.

    While higher levels of trauma lead both boys and girls to engage in more violent behaviours, boys are more likely to become violent. Girls tend to show higher levels of depression.

    Separately, a new report to be released next month at an international conference in Vancouver concludes that focusing on boys is critical to achieving gender parity. The report from the Bellagio Working Group on Gender Equality — a global coalition of adolescent health experts — finds boys and men are frequently overlooked in the equality equation.

    “We cannot achieve a gender-equitable world by ignoring half of its occupants,” the report states. “It is crucial that boys and men be included in efforts to promote gender equality and empowerment.”

    For the past six years, a consortium of 15 countries led by the Bloomberg School of Public Health and World Health Organization has been working on the global early adolescent study. The aim is to understand how gender norms are formed in early adolescence and how they predispose young people to sexual and other health risks.

    Evidence gathered by the study indicates boys experience as much disadvantage as girls but are more likely to smoke, drink and suffer injury and death in the second decade of life than their female counterparts.

    The key to achieving gender equality over the next decade or so — as the United Nations aims to do — involves addressing conditions and stereotypes that are harmful to both girls and boys, the researchers say. They also say it’s crucial to intervene as early as age 10. The norm is now age 15.

    “Gender norms, attitudes and beliefs appear to solidify by age 15 or 16,” the working group says. “We must actively engage girls and boys at the onset of adolescence to increase total social inclusion and produce generational change.”

    Leena Augimeri, a child mental-health expert with the Child Development Institute in Toronto, agreed with the need to focus on boys as well as girls. At the same time, she said, the genders do require different approaches.

    “Boys are equally at risk,” said Augimeri, who was not involved in the studies. “When we look at the various issues that impact our children, we have to look at it from different perspectives and lenses and you can’t think there’s a one fit for all.”

     

    Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


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    ‘Dignity and wisdom’: Chief justice praises Gascon after final high-court case

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    OTTAWA — Supreme Court Justice Clement Gascon received a standing ovation Thursday after hearing his final case on the high court.
    Gascon graciously thanked his family and colleagues, saying it is an immense privilege to be a judge.
    Last month, Gascon,…


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  • OTTAWA — Supreme Court Justice Clement Gascon received a standing ovation Thursday after hearing his final case on the high court.

    Gascon graciously thanked his family and colleagues, saying it is an immense privilege to be a judge.

    Last month, Gascon, 58, announced plans to retire for unspecified personal and family reasons.

    He said this week he has long struggled with anxiety and depression, and while he has generally been able to manage the illness, it recently led to a difficult episode.

    Gascon said he suffered a panic attack before he briefly went missing May 8. He profusely apologized for the uncharacteristic absence, citing the effects of his difficult career decision and a change in medication.

    In the crowded courtroom Thursday, Chief Justice Richard Wagner praised Gascon as an exceptional person.

    “Our esteemed colleague has served Canadians with dignity and wisdom,” Wagner said. “His commitment and friendship will be missed.”

    Justice Sheilah Martin shed tears.

    Gascon officially steps down Sept. 15 but will continue to have input into judgments flowing from cases he has heard, as long as they are released within six months of his retirement date.

    Judgments released after mid-March will note that Gascon had no input into the decision.

    “My work as a judge is far from complete,” he said. “I can assure you that I will continue.”

    The Canadian Press


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