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Talc (derived from Persian) is a mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate with the chemical formula H2Mg3(SiO3)4 or Mg3Si4O10(OH)2. In loose form, it is the widely used substance known as talcum powder. It occurs as foliated to fibrous masses, and in an exceptionally rare crystal form. It has a perfect basal cleavage, and the folia are non-elastic, although slightly flexible. It is the softest known mineral and listed as 1 on the Mohs hardness scale as such, it can be easily scratched by a fingernail. It is also sectile (can be cut with a knife). It has a specific gravity of 2.5–2.8, a clear or dusty lustre, and is translucent to opaque. Talc is not soluble in water, but it is slightly soluble in dilute mineral acids. Its colour ranges from white to grey or green and it has a distinctly greasy feel. Its streak is white.
Soapstone is a metamorphic rock composed predominantly of talc.
Talc is a metamorphic mineral resulting from the metamorphism of magnesian minerals such as serpentine, pyroxene, amphibole, olivine, in the presence of carbon dioxide and water. This is known as talc carbonation or steatization and produces a suite of rocks known as talc carbonates.
Talc is a tri-octahedral layered mineral; its structure is similar to that of pyrophyllite, but with magnesium in the octahedral sites of the composite layers.
Talc is a common metamorphic mineral in metamorphic belts which contain ultramafic rocks, such as soapstone (a high-talc rock), and within whiteschist and blueschist metamorphic terranes. Prime examples of whiteschists include the Franciscan Metamorphic Belt of the western United States, the western European Alps especially in Italy, certain areas of the Musgrave Block, and some collisional orogens such as the Himalayas which stretches along Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bhutan.
Talc carbonate ultramafics are typical of many areas of the Archaean cratons, notably the komatiite belts of the Yilgarn Craton in Western Australia. Talc-carbonate ultramafics are also known from the Lachlan Fold Belt, eastern Australia, from Brazil, the Guiana Shield, and from the ophiolite belts of Turkey, Oman and the Middle East.
Notable economic talc occurrences include the Mount Seabrook talc mine, Western Australia, formed upon a polydeformed, layered ultramafic intrusion. The France-based Luzenac Group is the world's largest supplier of mined talc; its largest talc mine at Trimouns near Luzenac in southern France produces 400,000 tonnes of talc per year, representing 8% of world production.
Talc is also used as food additive or in pharmaceutical products as a glidant. In medicine talc is used as a pleurodesis agent to prevent recurrent pleural effusion or pneumothorax. In the European Union the additive number is E553b.
Due to its low shear strength, talc is one of the oldest known solid lubricants, there are also a limited use talc as friction reducing additive in lubricating oils.
Talc is widely used in the ceramics industry in both bodies and glazes. In low-fire artware bodies it imparts whiteness and increases thermal expansion to resist crazing. In stonewares, small percentages of talc are used to flux the body and therefore improve strength and vitrification. It is a source of MgO flux in high temperature glazes (to control melting temperature). It is also employed as a matting agent in earthenware glazes and can be used to produce magnesia mattes at high temperatures.
Patents are pending on the use of magnesium silicate as a cement substitute. Its production requirements are less energy-intensive than ordinary Portland cement (at a heating requirement of around 650 °C for talc compared to 1500 °C for limestone to produce Portland cement), while it absorbs far more carbon dioxide as it hardens. This results in a negative carbon footprint overall, as the cement substitute removes 0.6 tonnes of CO2 per tonne used. This contrasts with a carbon footprint of 0.4 tonne per tonne of conventional cement.
Talc is used in manufacturing of wall coatings as a base content Paints, Talc is also using in agriculture for organic farming Agriculture Talc is used in Food. Talc is also used in cosmetics baby powder. Talc is used in detergent powder.
Talc is sometimes used as an adulterant to illegal heroin, to expand volume and weight and thereby increase its street value. With intravenous use, it may lead to talcosis, a granulomatous inflammation in the lungs.
Talc powder is a household item, sold globally for use in personal hygiene and cosmetics. Some suspicions have been raised about the possibility its use promotes certain types of diseases, mainly cancers of the ovaries and lungs (it is in the same 2B category in the IARC listing as mobile phones and coffee) although this is not widely recognised as an established link.
The studies reference, by subject: pulmonary issues, lung cancer, and ovarian cancer. One of these, published in 1993, was a US National Toxicology Program report, which found that cosmetic grade talc containing no asbestos-like fibres was correlated with tumour formation in rats (animal testing) forced to inhale talc for 6 hours a day, five days a week over at least 113 weeks. A 1971 paper found particles of talc embedded in 75% of the ovarian tumours studied. Recent research questions if a link does actually exist between the two.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have set occupational exposure limits to respirable talc dusts at 2 mg/m3 over an eight-hour workday.
One particular issue with commercial use of talc is its frequent co-location in underground deposits with asbestos ore, which often leads to contamination of powdered talc products with asbestos fibres. Stringent quality control since 1976 (separating cosmetic and food-grade talc from "industrial" grade talc, which is allowed a certain portion of asbestos contamination) has mostly eliminated this issue, but it remains a continuing hazard requiring mitigation in the mining and processing of talc. A 2010 US FDA survey failed to find asbestos in a variety of talc-containing products.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers talc (magnesium silicate) to be generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use as an anti-caking agent in table salt in concentrations smaller than 2%.
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