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Report: Toxins Common in Baby Products

Of the Baby Products Tested, 61% Contained Formaldehyde and 1,4-Dioxane
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 12, 2009 -- You aren’t likely to see the chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane listed on the labels of baby bath products, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there, a consumer group is warning.

More than half of children’s bath soaps, shampoos, lotions, and other personal care products tested by the group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) were found to contain 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, according to a report released today.

Both of the chemicals are considered probable carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Because they are not intentionally added by manufacturers, there is no requirement that product labels list the chemicals when they are present.

There are also no federal restrictions on allowable levels of the chemicals in body care products, but several other countries do not allow the chemicals at any level.

The European Union has banned 1,4-dioxane from cosmetic products. And formaldehyde is not allowed in cosmetics sold in Japan and Sweden.

“Manufacturers could easily remove these toxic byproducts, but they are not required to do so under federal cosmetics safety standards,” Sonya Lunder, MPH, of CSC and the Environmental Working Group tells WebMD.

Lunder says there is no simple way for parents to tell if the baby bath products they are purchasing contain the chemical byproducts. In an earlier test, CSC found that many products labeled “natural” or “organic” contained 1,4-dioxane.

“The main thing parents can do is use fewer body care products on their children or look for those products with fewer ingredients,” she says. “Labels that say ‘gentle’ or ‘pure’ or even ‘organic’ don’t really tell you much.”

61% of Products Had Both Chemicals

The CSC had 48 baby and child personal care products tested for 1,4-dioxane, which occurs as a byproduct of a chemical process used to make petroleum-based cosmetic ingredients gentler to the skin.

The products were chosen because they contained ingredients most likely to produce the chemical.

Twenty-eight products were tested for 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, which occurs when preservatives commonly used in cosmetic products break down.

According to the report:

  • Seventeen out of 28 products tested (61%) were found to contain both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane.
  • Twenty-three out of 28 products (82%) contained formaldehyde, and 32 of 48 products (67%) contained 1,4-dioxane.
  • Baby Magic “Soft Baby Scent” Lotion contained the highest levels of formaldehyde found in the testing. Two samples of the lotion contained 570 and 610 parts per million (ppm) of the chemical. The report noted that a formaldehyde level above 500 ppm would require a warning label in Europe.
  • Several samples of “American Girl” shower products, sold by Bath & Body Works, contained the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane found in the test.
  • Best-selling products found to contain both chemical contaminants included Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, Sesame Street Bubble Bath, Grins & Giggles Milk & Honey Baby Wash and Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wash.

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