A Health Canada advisory is raising concern over potential health risks of talc, saying in powder form it may be harmful to lung health and it could increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

The mineral is under the microscope of both Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

In a new draft screening assessment, the federal departments propose inhaling talc may harm lungs and topical use in the genital area of females could raise the risk of ovarian cancer.

The Manitoba Lung Association said there are alternatives available, such as corn starch.

"There's really no need for us to be exposing ourselves to a potential problem when it's really not a necessary thing," said Neil Johnston, president and CEO.

He also said talc is a difficult substance to clear from lungs, where it can cause scarring.

"It can be harmful if it’s inhaled in large amounts or over periods of time,” he told CTV News.

To reduce risk, the draft assessment advises people to:

  • avoid inhaling loose talc powders
  • avoid female genital exposure to products containing talc
  • keep baby powder away from a child's face to avoid inhalation
  • check product labels for talc and choose talc-free alternatives if concerned

With files from CTV's Michelle Gerwing