The woman who is addicted to eating talcum powder

A mother in England has revealed she is addicted to eating talcum powder – and can eat an entire 200g tub in just a day.

Lisa Anderson, 44, started eating the bathroom staple 15 years ago when she felt a sudden 'overwhelming' urge to do so while drying off her son after a bath.

Her cravings intensified and now, the mother-of-five admits scoffing talcum powder off the back of her hand every 30 minutes, and even gets up multiple times during the night to eat it.

She claims to have spent at estimated £8,000 devouring her favourite Johnson's Baby Powder, costing around £10 a week. The longest she claims to have gone without eating talc is two days.

Ms Anderson kept her habit secret for a decade before confiding in her ex-partner, who questioned why she kept sneaking off to the bathroom.

She has now plucked up the courage to get professional help after doctors allegedly told her she may have pica syndrome.

The eating disorder is characterised by a compulsion to eat non-food items, such as paint, dust and dirt.

Talcum powder is deemed poisonous when inhaled or eaten, and has been shrouded in controversy for potentially causing cancer in women who have used the product on their skin for years. But Ms Anderson cannot resist eating it.

Ms Anderson, of Paignton, Devon, said: 'I do get it's a bit weird - but it just has this nice soapy taste. 'I can get through a 200g bottle in a day but the bigger ones I get through about one-and-a-half a week. 'I remember getting really drawn to its smell. Now I can't do without it. I go up and get some every half an hour. I can't really go half an hour without it. 'The longest I've been without it is two days. That was the worst time of my life. I hated it.'

Ms Anderson first felt the desire to eat talcum powder in 2004, just a few days after giving birth to her fifth child. She had never felt the need to eat it with her other children.

She said: 'I've always had it [talcum powder] in the house and would douse myself with it after having a bath or shower. 'I'd use it on the kids after giving them a wash no problem. 'And then one day I remember being in the bathroom and the smell was just overpowering. 'There was a bit of dust that had come off the top of the bottle. 'I had this sudden urge to eat it and I just couldn't fight it. I just licked it off my hand and really enjoyed it. It just hit this spot. It was satisfying a craving I never knew I had.'

Ms Anderson always has a drink of water after indulging to cleanse her taste buds and cannot stomach flavoured talc, just the Johnson's original.

When she is out of the house, she munches on extra strong mints which satisfy her craving for the chalky texture.

'I don't carry any around with me when I go out,' she said. 'If I do have to go out to the shops or go to hospital I eat mints. 'The other day I was out for a few hours and I had eaten six packets of extra strong mints. 'But when I got home I just went to have the powder. It's the chalky texture that I crave. I wake up at least four times in the night as my body just craves it. 'This has been going on for years now I just can't see a point when it isn't part of my life. 'Just like someone with an addiction I was just having more and more each time I went to have some.'

Ms Anderson kept her condition secret for 10 years until her ex-partner stormed into the bathroom having grown suspicious of her regular visits.

It was not until she visited her GP last year that doctors suggested she may have pica syndrome.

Pica often occurs alongside mental health disorders that impair functioning, such as autism or schizophrenia. It can also be a sign of OCD or stress.

The prevalence of pica is not known but it most likely is more prevalent in developing countries, according to The National Eating Disorders Associations.

Ms Anderson has been referred by her GP for counselling, and is due to start this month.

Her habit is not without health risks – talcum powder is a powder made from a mineral called talc, a clay mineral made up of silicon, magnesium and oxygen.

It is thought the mineral is poisonous to the body if either inhaled or consumed. Breathing problems are the most common side effect as well as a cough and eye irritation.

But it can also cause chest pain and even lung failure as well as low blood pressure, convulsions, diarrhoea and vomiting. Ms Anderson said: 'Despite doing this for years and years I sat down earlier this year and thought this just cannot be normal. 'My partner doesn't like me doing it because of the links it has to cancer and the impact it could be having on my health. 'I went online and did my own bit of research then I decided to go to my GP. 'I spent years not knowing what was going on or happening. But it turns out it is a condition. And I just want to let others know they are not alone.'

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has previously ruled talc as possibly cancerous to humans based on a range of studies.

This is because in its natural form, talc contains asbestos, a deadly substance known to cause cancers when consumed for long periods of time even at a low level.

In 2016, a US study found a 33 per cent increase in the risk of ovarian cancer with genital talc use.

The NHS dubbed the study too small to be conclusive but does note gynaecologists recommend using plain, unperfumed soaps to gently wash the vagina.

In July 2018 Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay £3.6billion to 22 women after they alleged the baby powder gave them ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson, which has battled some 9,000 legal cases involving its signature baby powder, has always refuted the claim that its talcum powder is unsafe and says it does not contain asbestos.

People who have inhaled or ingested talcum powder are advised to seek help immediately.

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