The Washington Post
WASHINGTON – More than half the baby shampoo, lotions and other infant care products analyzed by a health advocacy group were found to contain trace amounts of two chemicals that are believed to cause cancer, the organization said Thursday.
Some of the biggest names on the market, including Johnson& Johnson Baby Shampoo and Baby Magic baby lotion, tested positive for 1,4-dioxane, or formaldehyde, or both, the nonprofit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reported.
The chemicals, both characterized as probable carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency, are not added intentionally to the products and do not appear on ingredient labels. Instead, they appear to be byproducts of the manufacturing process. Formaldehyde is created when other chemicals in the product begin to break down over time, while 1,4-dioxane is formed when foaming agents are combined with ethylene oxide or similar petrochemicals.
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The organization tested 48 baby bath products ranging from bubble bath to shampoo. Of those, 32 contained trace amounts of 1,4-dioxane and 23 contained small amounts of formaldehyde. Seventeen tested positive for both chemicals.
“Our intention is not to alarm parents but to inform parents that products that claim to be gentle and pure are contaminated with carcinogens, which is completely unnecessary,” said Stacy Malkan, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which is calling for the federal government to more aggressively regulate personal care products such as shampoos, lotions and makeup.
Companies that manufacture and sell products tested by the group stressed that they comply with government standards.
“The FDA and other government agencies around the world consider these trace levels safe, and all our products meet or exceed the regulatory requirements in every country where they are sold,“ Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.
“We are disappointed that the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has inaccurately characterized the safety of our products, misrepresented the overwhelming consensus of scientists and government agencies that review the safety of ingredients, and unnecessarily alarmed parents.”
The European Union has banned 1,4-dioxane as an ingredient in personal care products, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not established a safe limit for the chemical in shampoo, lotion, and other toiletries. It maintains that the trace amounts found in those products are not harmful.
A 1982 FDA study showed that 1,4-dioxane can penetrate human skin when used in lotions.
Health advocates argue, however, that federal regulators have failed to consider the chemicals’ cumulative impact.
“The levels we’ve found are relatively low, and the industry often says `There’s just a little bit of carcinogen in my product,’ ” Malkan said. “The problem is, we’re finding a little bit of carcinogen in many products. Many of these products are used every day, so we’ve got repeated and frequent exposure to these low levels of chemicals. They’re not the safest and purest products, and parents ought to know that.”
In addition, government studies have not examined the impact of chemical exposure on the particular vulnerabilities of infants and children, whose bodies are still developing, the advocates said.
Several Democratic lawmakers said the report was evidence that the nation’s chemical regulation system needs reform.
“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,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. “The science has moved forward; now the FDA needs to catch up and be given the authority to protect the health of Americans.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called the findings ”horrifying” and said she intends to introduce legislation that would require stronger oversight of the cosmetics industry.
The report can be found at www.safecosmetics.org/toxictub