Nothing should give you greater peace of mind than to give your baby a bath and know she's come out squeaky clean.
But a new report by Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has made me wonder whether that simple bath actually poses a serious risk.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned an independent laboratory to test 48 products for 1,4-dioxane; 28 of those products were also tested for formaldehyde. The lab found:
* 1,4-dioxane in 67 percent of the products.
* Formaldehyde in 82 percent of those tested.
* Seventeen products contaminated with both 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde.
The full list of products tested is in the Campaign's report, "No More Toxic Tub." They include: Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo, Baby Magic "Soft Baby Scent" Baby Lotion, and American Girl "Hopes & Dreams" Glistening Shower and Beth Wash.
Why does this matter?
Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known carcinogens; formaldehyde can also trigger skin rashes in some children. Unlike many other countries, the U.S. government does not limit formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, or most other hazardous substances in personal care products.
The toxins are not listed on the ingredients label because, the way the law is written, they're not required to. And manufacturers of products that contain toxins like these often discount their impact, saying they pose no threat because they're present in such minute amounts.
The National Academy of Sciences disagrees. NAS says several factors contribute to children's special vulnerability to the harmful effects of chemicals:
• A child's chemical exposures are greater pound-for-pound than those of an adult.
• Children are less able than adults to detoxify and excrete chemicals.
• Children's developing organ systems are more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposures.
• Children have more years of future life in which to develop disease triggered by early exposure.
What can you do?
* Search the Skin Deep data base maintained by Environmental Working Group to find safer alternatives to the products identified in the Campaign's report.
* Contact Johnson & Johnson, and urge them to clean up their products by removing dangerous ingredients like 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde. Here is the e-mail I just sent:
I have recently learned that J&J baby soaps contain 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde. These are known carcinogens to which no child should be exposed. Please remove these compounds from all your products immediately. Until you do, I will cease to be a J&J customer.
*Write to Rep. Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, with responsibility for legislation and oversight in the areas of public health, consumer protection, food and drug safety, and the environment.Urge Rep. Waxman to convene hearings on toxic ingredients in baby products.
2204 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Telephone (202) 225-3976
Fax (202) 225-4099
* Write your own Senators and Representative and urge them to support the Kid-Safe Chemical Act, legislation that would strengthen laws and regulations to protect kids from toxins in all products – including baby soap and shampoo.