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Report: Toxins Common in Baby Products

Of the Baby Products Tested, 61% Contained Formaldehyde and 1,4-Dioxane

61% of Products Had Both Chemicals continued...

Cleveland Clinic dermatologist Wilma Bergfeld, MD, leads the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, an industry funded, government-backed panel that assesses the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics.

She tells WebMD that if the CSC report is accurate, it suggests that manufacturers are not doing a good enough job of removing 1,4-dioxane from their products.

“Dioxane should not be in any baby care or children’s cosmetic, period, because it is possible to take it out,” she says. “Formaldehyde is a different story.”

She says the formaldehyde levels cited in the report were well within what has been shown to be safe.

The review panel recommends that formaldehyde levels in personal care products should not exceed 2,000 ppm. The highest level of formaldehyde found in any single product tested by the CSC was 610 ppm.

“We know from animal and human studies that this level is safe and can be used in all ages, with the exception of people with formaldehyde sensitivities,” she says.

Baby Care Companies Respond

The Baby Magic line of bath products has been sold since the testing was done, and a spokeswoman for Naterra International Inc., the company that now markets the products, tells WebMD that the tested lotion has been reformulated.

Melanie Dean-Valdez says the product formulations tested by the CSC are no longer being sold.

In a statement issued late Wednesday by Johnson & Johnson, the company charged that the report “inaccurately characterized the safety of our products” and “unnecessarily alarms parents.”

“The trace levels of certain compounds found by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics can result from processes that make our products gentle for babies and safe from bacteria growth,” the statement notes. "The FDA and other government agencies around the world consider these trace levels safe, and all our products meet or exceed the regulatory requirements for every country where they are sold.”

Limited Brands, which owns Bath & Body Works, issued a statement Thursday noting that the company complies “with all applicable regulations and is committed to selling only the safest and highest-quality products.”

More Industry Response

In an interview with WebMD, a spokesman for the cosmetics industry group Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) was highly critical of the CSC report.

“I am very alarmed that they would make these accusations and not back it up with solid science,” says chemist John Bailey, PhD. “The report included no details about how this testing was done.”

Bailey noted that the levels of the two chemicals found in the CSC analysis are well below established safety limits.

In a written statement, the cosmetics industry group characterized the CSC report as “incomplete and alarmist.”

“Allegations that commonly used baby products are somehow contaminated with harmful levels of carcinogenic chemicals are patently false and a shameful and cynical attempt by an activist group to incite and prey upon parental worries and concerns in order to push a political, legislative, and legal agenda,” the statement notes.

The CSC report calls for stronger government regulation to prohibit toxic contaminants in baby and other personal care products. And it calls on the industry to reformulate their products to remove the contaminants.

Bailey tells WebMD that manufacturers do take reasonable steps to keep levels of the chemical byproducts “well below that which would be considered harmful,” but he adds that it is unrealistic to expect that they can be completely eliminated from all products.

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