[Pharmwaste] Probable Carcinogens Found in Baby Toiletries
dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Fri Mar 13 09:31:39 EDT 2009
Probable Carcinogens Found in Baby Toiletries
By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 13, 2009; A04
More than half the baby shampoo, lotion 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
Some of the biggest names on the market, including Johnson & Johnson
Baby Shampoo and Baby Magic lotion, tested positive for 1,4-dioxane or
formaldehyde, or both, the nonprofit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
The chemicals, which the Environmental Protection Agency has
characterized as probable carcinogens, are not intentionally added to
the products and are not listed among ingredients on labels. Instead,
they 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.
The organization tested 48 baby bath products such as bubble bath and
shampoo. Of those, 32 contained trace amounts of 1,4-dioxane and 23
contained small amounts of formaldehyde. Seventeen tested positive for
"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.
Companies that manufacture and sell the 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
The European Union has banned 1,4-dioxane as an ingredient in personal
care products, but the 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
A 1982 study by the FDA showed that 1,4-dioxane can penetrate human skin
when used in lotion.
Health advocates argue, however, that federal regulators have not
considered the cumulative effect of chemicals in personal care products.
"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 effect 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 is evidence that the
nation's chemical regulation system needs to be changed.
"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 (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 (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 http://www.safecosmetics.org/toxictub.
Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email: dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
WEB site address: www.deq.virginia.gov
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Water Permit Programs
Industrial Pretreatment/Toxics Management Program
PPCPs, EDCs, and Microconstituents
Mail: P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218 (NEW!)
Location: 629 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219
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