Having your baby sleep on a Naturepedic baby crib mattress prevents exposure to many harmful chemicals, but exposure doesn’t end there. Check out this information on bath and personal care products.
While not every personal care product for babies and children contains harmful ingredients, two notable carcinogens that are by-products of the manufacturing and storage process are showing up in a majority of products tested by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition with several notable founding and sponsor members, including the Environmental Working Group. Parents should be aware of what these products are and how to avoid them.
The chemicals of concern are 1,4-dioxane (aka dioxane) and formaldehyde. They are not listed on labels because they are by-products, not ingredients.
Here’s the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics explanation of how they contaminate the products:
“Formaldehyde contaminates personal care products when common preservatives release formaldehyde over time in the container. Common ingredients likely to contaminate products with formaldehyde include quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea.”
“1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of a chemical processing technique called ethoxylation, in which cosmetic ingredients are processed with ethylene oxide. Manufacturers can easily remove the toxic byproduct, but are not required by law to do so. Common ingredients likely to be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane include PEG-100 stearate, sodium laureth sulfate, polyethylene and ceteareth-20.”
What Damage Can Be Caused by These Chemicals?
- 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde are both known carcinogens.
- 1,4-dioxane has also been linked to damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys, and exposure has even been fatal to chemical workers. It readily absorbs into the bloodstream.
- Formaldehyde can cause coughing, wheezing, watery eyes, itching, and skin irritations, has been linked to allergies and asthma in children, and to the development of leukemia as well as nose, lung, and brain cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Test Results
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested 48 commonly used baby products including baby shampoos, bubble baths and baby lotions. Here’s a brief summary of what they found:
- 17 out of 28 products tested – 61 percent – contained both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane.
- 23 out of 28 products – 82 percent – contained formaldehyde at levels ranging from 54 to 610 parts per million (ppm).
- 32 out of 48 products – 67 percent – contained 1,4-dioxane at levels ranging from 0.27 to 35 ppm.
The Campaign acknowledges that using just one of these products might not be a problem – but several of them are used several times a week for years. Add that to toxic chemical exposure from other sources, and that’s quite a load for a little, not as yet developed body.
More Information on the Tested Products and Safer Alternatives
Check out the report on the study, No More Toxic Tub, for a full list of the products tested, the results for each (including which ones tested as safe), more details on 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde, and additional data. It is an interesting and easy read.
If you’re looking for alternatives, check www.cosmeticsdatabase.com – a wonderful database that provides information on individual products. You can look for the safest products there as well seeing which ones you should avoid.
There are plenty of safe products out there for our kids, and you don’t have to be a chemist to find them. All it takes is a little education.