Cancer Causing Chemicals Found in Baby Products

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

A new report has found evidence of cancer-causing chemicals in popular baby products such as Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo and Baby Magic lotion.

According to the Washington Post, the findings were reported by the nonprofit health advocacy group, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which tested 48 commonly used baby bath products. Of those tested, 32 contained trace amounts of 1,4-dioxane and 23 contained small amounts of formaldehyde. Seventeen tested positive for both chemicals. Both 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde are listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogenic. 

The harmful chemicals are not added intentionally, however, but appear to be byproducts of the manufacturing process. Formaldehyde is created when other chemicals in the product break down over time, while 1,4-dioxane is formed when foaming agents are combined with ethylene oxide or similar petrochemicals.
“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 government to more strictly regulate personal care products such as shampoo, lotion and makeup.

A 1982 study by the FDA showed that 1,4-dioxane can penetrate human skin when used in lotion. It has been banned for use in personal care products by the European Union but the Food and Drug Administration has not yet 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.

Health advocates say federal regulators are failing to consider the cumulative effect of chemicals in personal care products that are used over and over again.

“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.”

Two of the biggest names on the list of products that tested positive for these carcinogens include the popular Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo and Baby Magic lotion.

“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.”

Lawmakers are already planning to look into the issue. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called the findings “horrifying” and said she intends to introduce legislation that would require stronger oversight of the cosmetic industry.

To read the report, visit
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