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Environmental connections to public health >>

When "pure" is not pure or how did our lack of regulations allow cancer-causing chemicals in baby's products

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Being a parent should not be a scary thing. It is supposed to be the time of joy, fun and reward. Ok, and a few boo-boos.

But trying to keep your child clean and healthy is serious business. Especially when you read the new report, released today, by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. EWG is the founding member of the campaign, along with groups such as Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Fund, Commonweal, Friends of the Earth, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, National Black Environmental Justice Network, National Environmental Trust and Women's Voices for the Earth.

The study documents the widespread presence of formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, potent cancer-causing chemicals, in bath products for children. Neither one of those chemicals are listed on labels, since both are by-products formed when preservatives react to one another.

The Campaign tested 28 products and found that

  • Over 60 percent items contained both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane. These included Johnson's Baby Shampoo, Sesame Street Bubble Bath, Grins & Giggles Milk & Honey Baby Wash and Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wash.

  • Over 80 percent of products contained formaldehyde at levels ranging from 54 to 610 parts per million (ppm).

  • Almost 70 percent of products contained 1,4-dioxane at levels ranging from 0.27 to 35 ppm.

All of these products were marketed as "gentle" and "pure." Obviously they're not.

As regular readers of this blog know, the cosmetics industry is self-regulating and can do whatever it wants. Cosmetics companies can add nearly any ingredient to cosmetics without government-regulated safety testing. The system is so broken that parents cannot be assured that shampoos, bubble baths and lotions they put on their kids are safe. The standards in the U.S. are far behind the standards in Europe or Japan.

So what can parents do? It's impossible to shop your way out of this problem. But, you can use fewer products, use products with fewer ingredients and search our Skin Deep database for alternatives. And lobby congress to pass health protective laws. Or just move to Europe or Japan.

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