WASHINGTON, DC (March 12, 2009) — Despite marketing claims like “gentle” and “pure,” dozens of top-selling children’s bath products are contaminated with the cancer-causing chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, according to product test results released today by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. The chemicals were not disclosed on product labels because contaminants are exempt from labeling laws.
This study is the first to document the widespread presence of both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane in children’s bath products. Many products contained both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, including Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Sesame Street Bubble Bath.
Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known to cause cancer in animals and are listed as probable human carcinogens by the EPA. Formaldehyde can also trigger skin rashes in some children.
“Given the recent data showing that formaldehyde and the formaldehyde-releasing preservative, quaternium-15, are significant sensitizers and causal agents of contact dermatitis in children, it would be prudent to have these removed from children’s products,” said Sharon Jacob, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of California San Diego and contact dermatitis specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that “the presence of 1,4-dioxane, even as a trace contaminant, is cause for concern.”
Contrary to industry statements, no regulatory standards limit formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane in personal care products sold in the U.S. Formaldehyde is banned from personal care products in Japan and Sweden. The EU bans 1,4-dioxane from personal care products and has recalled products found to contain the chemical.
There are signs the U.S. is gearing to catch up. Key Congressional leaders point to the findings of this report as further evidence of the need for action. “When products for babies are labeled ‘gentle’ and ‘pure,’ parents expect that they are just that,” said Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.). “To think that cancer-causing chemicals are contaminating baby shampoos and lotions is horrifying. I intend to soon introduce legislation requiring greater oversight of our cosmetics industry. We need to ensure that the chemicals that are used in our everyday products are safe.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said, “The fact that we are bathing our kids in products contaminated with carcinogens shows how woefully out of date our cosmetics laws are and how urgently they need to be updated. The science has moved forward, now the FDA needs to catch up and be given the authority to protect the health of Americans.”
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) commented that “Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are better suited for the chem lab, not a child’s bathtub. This important report shows that ‘No More Tears’ can trigger toxic fears, and it provides another reason why these and other cosmetic products must be further regulated. “
For the study, the Campaign commissioned an independent laboratory to test 48 top-selling children’s products for 1,4-dioxane; 28 of those products were also tested for formaldehyde. Findings include:
- 61 percent of products contained both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, including Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, Sesame Street Bubble Bath, Grins & Giggles Milk & Honey Baby Wash and Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wash.
- 82 percent contained formaldehyde at levels from 54 to 610 parts per million. Baby Magic Baby Lotion had the highest levels.
- 67 percent contained 1,4-dioxane at levels from 0.27 to 35 ppm. American Girl shower products had the highest levels.
“There no reason why manufacturers can’t remove hazardous chemicals from products being applied to babies’ bodies daily,” said Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., president of the Breast Cancer Fund. “We need to protect children from these repeated, unnecessary exposures.”
“Products made in the U.S. and marketed for children should not contain chemicals linked to cancer,” said Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at Environmental Working Group and creator of the Skin Deep cosmetic safety database. “Congress needs to protect the most vulnerable members of our society by ensuring that the personal care products we use every day are free from harmful chemicals.”