Report: Toxins Common in Baby Products
Of the Baby Products Tested, 61% Contained Formaldehyde and 1,4-Dioxane
WebMD News Archive
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
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
“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
- Several samples of “American Girl” shower products, sold by Bath & Body
Works, contained the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane found in the
- 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