Monday, March 16, 2009

Formaldehyde & 1,4-Dioxane In Popular Baby Bath Products

Mar 12: Despite marketing claims like “gentle” and “pure,” dozens of top-selling children’s bath products are contaminated with the cancer-causing chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, according to the March 2009 Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) report entitled, "No More Toxic Tub." This study is the first to document the widespread presence of both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane in bath products for children, including baby shampoos, bubble baths and baby lotions. Many products tested contained both chemicals.

The founding members of the CSC include: Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Fund, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, National Black Environmental Justice Network, National Environmental Trust and Women's Voices for the Earth.

The CSC commissioned an independent laboratory to test 48 products for 1,4-dioxane; 28 of those products were also tested for formaldehyde. The lab found that: 17 out of 28 products tested -- 61 percent -- contained both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane. 23 out of 28 products -- 82 percent -- contained formaldehyde at levels ranging from 54 to 610 parts per million (ppm). 32 out of 48 products -- 67 percent -- contained 1,4-dioxane at levels ranging from 0.27 to 35 ppm. Products tested included top-selling Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, Sesame Street Bubble Bath, and Baby Magic.

Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at Environmental Working Group (EWG) and creator of the Skin Deep cosmetic safety database said, “Products made in the U.S. and marketed for children should not contain chemicals linked to cancer or any other health problem,” said Congress urgently needs to reform federal policy to protect the most vulnerable members of our society by ensuring that the personal care products we use every day are free from harmful chemicals.”

According to a release from EWG, formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known to cause cancer in animals and are listed as probable human carcinogens by U.S. EPA. Formaldehyde can also trigger skin rashes in some children. Sharon Jacob, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of California San Diego and contact dermatitis specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital said, “Given the recent data showing that formaldehyde and the formaldehyde-releasing preservative, quaternium-15, are significant sensitizers and causal agents of contact dermatitis in children, it would be prudent to have these removed from children’s products." The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says that “the presence of 1,4-dioxane, even as a trace contaminant, is cause for concern.”

According to the announcement from CSC, "While a single product might not be cause for concern, the reality is that babies may be exposed to several products at bath time, several times a week, in addition to other chemical exposures in the home and environment. Those small exposures add up and may contribute to later-life disease." EWG indicates that, "Contrary to industry statements, there are no regulatory standards that limit formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane or most other toxic chemicals in personal care products sold in the United States. Other nations have stricter standards. Formaldehyde is banned from personal care products in Japan and Sweden. The European Union bans 1,4-dioxane from personal care products and has recalled products found to contain the chemical."

CSC reported that Congressional concerns are picking up. The cited the following Congressional leaders expressing concerns. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) said, “When products for babies are labeled ‘gentle’ and ‘pure,’ parents expect that they are just that. To think that cancer-causing chemicals are contaminating baby shampoos and lotions is horrifying. I intend to soon introduce legislation requiring greater oversight of our cosmetics industry. We need to ensure that the chemicals that are used in our everyday products are safe.” Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said, “The fact that we are bathing our kids in products contaminated with carcinogens shows how woefully out of date our cosmetics laws are and how urgently they need to be updated. The science has moved forward, now the FDA needs to catch up and be given the authority to protect the health of Americans.” Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) commented that, “Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are better suited for the chem lab, not a child's bathtub. This important report shows that 'No More Tears' can trigger toxic fears, and it provides another reason why these and other cosmetic products must be further regulated. ”

Access an announcement from CSC (
click here). Access the complete 32-page report (click here). Access a release from CSC with links to more information (click here). Access the EWG Cosmetics database (click here). [*Toxics]