Is Johnson’s Baby Powder Flammable?

This article will answer the following question: “Is Johnson’s Baby Powder Flammable?”. We will discuss both Johnson’s Baby Talc Powder and Cornstarch Powder. We will show recent documentation about their safety when it comes to fire and health.

Is Johnson’s Baby Powder Flammable?

It depends. The Johnson’s Baby Powder version made of Cornstarch can be considered combustible, and even flammable or explosive if it has become airborne for some reason.

What is Johnson’s Baby Powder?

Baby powder is a product that has astringent properties. Its main use is to prevent diaper rash in babies, but some may use it as a cosmetic that helps remove moisture and oil from the skin.

Other uses for the product include: being used as a dry shampoo, a cleansing agent and as a freshener.

Nowadays in the U.S and Canada, only versions of Johson’s Baby Powder made of starch are allowed, due to claims that the talc used had asbestos (a carcinogenic substance).

Johnson’s Baby Talc Powder 

Johson’s Baby talc-based is not commercialized in the U.S as we said earlier. The product used to be made almost entirely of an inorganic compound, a type of rock called talc.

Talc can be found naturally in the Earth’s crust, it’s made of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Its chemical formula is Mg3Si4O10(OH)2.

Johnson’s Baby Cornstarch Powder

The Corn starch version of the Johson’s product is the one commercialized in the U.S since 2020. It’s made essentially from maize, derived from corn grain.

The ingredient is also a type of food, used in many industries and households worldwide. Although the Baby Powder has fragrances and other compounds in smaller doses, so you shouldn’t ingest it at all.

How flammable Johson’s Baby Powder is?

It depends on which form of Baby powder. The Talc version is mainly made of clay minerals that cannot burn. The Cornstarch version, although, is derived from maize grain, and can even be considered explosive in some situations.

Cornstarch powder is a conceivable safety issue. A report from 2007 showed that a mother suffered burns on her face, neck, and head while pre-powdering diapers, after lighting a cigarette.

The woman had her eyelashes and hair singed, and small blisters appeared on her neck.

Cornflour is not very flammable, but when in a powder form, especially if airborne, the molecules can react much more readily with oxygen in the presence of a source of ignition.

A room with zero to low ventilation is always a suitable scenario for an explosion if there’s fuel and ignition available. This is why all aerosol manufacturers orientate that their products must be handled only in open spaces, or else with the best ventilation possible.

Besides being capable of igniting, Baby Powder also presents some level of health hazards, because it can be inhaled into the lungs, which can irritate.

What makes something flammable?

The answer to this question lies in the nature of matter. First of all, being flammable means that a compound can ignite easily at ambient temperatures.

It’s different from the word “combustible”, which is used to describe materials that can burn in more uncommon situations. A combustible is bound to its physical and chemical characteristics.

But what is the nature of fire? How something can even burn? Can anything burn if in powder form? All these questions deserve a proper answer, which we will try to provide next.

What is fire?

Fire is a result of combustion. When something catches fire is because a chemical reaction took place, transforming the molecules of fuel into simpler ones. 

Because the chemical bondings of the fuel are undone to form new ones, there’s excedent energy released in the form of heat and light. This is fire. Such a step is indispensable for fire to appear.

If the fuel already has simpler chemical bondings, the combustion reaction won’t happen because there won’t be energy left to liberate. Actually, it wouldn’t even be a fuel.

We name as fuel things that can generate energy upon burning. Therefore, to understand what makes something flammable we must first understand what “something” is made of.

Chemically speaking, fuels are organic molecules. They are mainly made of carbon (C) and hydrogen (H). When combustion happens, oxygen (O) reacts to them.

As we said, combustion makes fuel molecules turn into simpler molecules. Full combustion leads to only three byproducts: water (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and energy in the form of fire.

Note that before and after the combustion, the atoms are not lost. They simply get rearranged into other humble molecules. The energy that once kept the fuel molecules together is now the fire.

Anything in powder form can burn?

Not exactly. Anything combustible, when in powder form, will be more flammable than if the particles were bigger. But simply being a powder doesn’t assure that the material will burn.

For example, sodium bicarbonate in powder form is used in fire extinguishers. It can coat the fuel to extinguish the flames. 

The most important thing when it comes to fires is that the material which will burn must liberate energy after being ignited. 

If the material can’t generate heat, it means that rather the combustion reaction didn’t happen at all, or else the material didn’t generate heat because its nature is to absorb it, but this is rare.

Johnson’s Baby Powder Safety Data Sheets

For a better understanding, you can check specific safety data from data sheets. Most official products have at least one available, that can easily be retrieved from Google. Here we note some:

  • Johnson’s Baby Powder Cornstarch Products: It’s mainly made of starch. Its other ingredients are Tricalcium phosphate and fragrance. No hazards are expected for the product, but it can ignite if to the particles a source of ignition is provided.
  • Johnson’s Baby Powder Soothing Aloe & Vitamin E: This version can be entirely made of Corn starch. As usual, the specific proportion is a trade secret. The product has no specific hazards, but it can be ignited and can form combustible dust in the air.
  • Johnson’s Baby Powder: this is the version that’s not used anymore in the U.S, made of talc. The document says that it’s asbestos-free. Also, there’s no safety hazard available.

is johnson’s baby powder carcinogenic?

Johnson’s Baby Talc Powder is been extensively pointed out as a precursor of ovarian cancer, due to exposure to asbestos contained in the talc. To this date, no clinical trial had confirmed this allegation.

At the same time, there are still thousands of lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, most of them from women who acquired cancer, or believe that the company is covering up the risks.

A study from 2009 reviewed all data available for X years and found no evidence that supported the idea that talc and ovarian cancer had a causal relation.

Still, quoting Carl Sagan: “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. The FDA has ongoing research on the subject, and for now, we can’t say anything for sure.

J&J itself still claims that the talc-based version is safe for use, but decided to stop selling it anyway in the U.S and Canada. The product is still available in other parts of the World.

Is johnson’s baby powder safe now?

In the U.S and Canada, Johnson’s Baby Powder is now made of Cornstarch, because of the claims of carcinogenicity. 

It’s still unclear rather the talc powder used by Johson & Johnson contained asbestos (the compounds that can indeed cause cancer), but the company decided not to use it, due to popular appeal.

A review study from 2009 showed that there was no significant toxicity difference between Talc or Cornstarch Johson’s Baby Powders when used according to the instructions.

Both forms present some level of toxicity if inhaled, but you should be alarmed. Nearly any airborne solid particle present just as much toxicity to us. 

Overall, Johsons’ Baby Powder can be considered potentially safer in the Cornstarch version, because there’s no chance it’s going to have any asbestos. But again, there’s also no certainty that the Talc version ever had it.

Conclusion

Johson’s baby powder is not exactly flammable. The talc version is not flammable at all, but the starch version can ignite readily if left airborne. 

There have been reports of people getting burned after lighting a cigarette during the use of Baby powder, so attention is required.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS): Is Johnson’s Baby Powder Flammable?

is johnson’s baby powder talc free?

In the U.S and Canada, talc versions of Johson’s Baby powder were discontinued. Since 2020, only talc-free versions of Johson’s Baby Powder are manufactured and sold in the countries.

Now, the products are made of Cornstarch, which serves the same purpose of preventing diaper hash.

is johnson’s baby powder safe for face?

Talc can cause eye irritation. Ingestion and inhalation can be bad for you as well. Applying the product directly to our faces may enhance such risks.

Considering you’re taking all the precautions, there’s no further toxicity issue with applying to your face. Talc can help you get rid of skin oil excess. 

But it can also make your skin too dry, so make sure only to apply it in areas absolutely needed. Our faces’ skins are more sensitive than other areas of our bodies, which is why there are so many specific cosmetics destined for it.

is talc bad for you?

Many products, especially cosmetics and medical gloves, use talc in the U.S. Talc alone can’t cause harm to us, it’s a simple inorganic and inert molecule. 

But some say it might contain asbestos, molecules known for being carcinogenic.

But there are thousands of claims that, for example, Johnson & Johnson talc-based Baby Powder is capable of enhancing the risk of ovarian and mesothelioma cancer. 

This problem got so serious that the company decided to stop manufacturing and distributing it in the U.S and Canada. Although, it keeps being sold in the rest of the world.

Citations

https://incidecoder.com/ingredients/talc
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_powder
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_starch
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talc
https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-baby-powder-cancer-lawsuits/
https://www.johnsonsbaby.com/baby-products/johnsons-baby-powder
https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/talc

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