Toxic Tub: Carcinogens 1,4 Dioxane and Formaldehyde Found in Baby Bath & Beauty Products

baby in bubble bathThe Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released a new report showing that many conventional baby bath products include cancer-causing 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde.  The information really isn’t new – we’ve known for many years that the ethoxylation process can create 1,4 dioxane as a contaminant (see, for example, my post on 1,4-dioxane in so called natural products) – and we’ve also known that many commonly used preservative release formaldehyde.  However, this new report provides the actual concentration levels in many popular baby bath products.  
But, and this is a big but, please note that this study only looked at concentration levels in the products – it did not measure exposure – so just because a product contains 1,4-dioxane or formaldehyde, or both, doesn’t mean that an exposure occurs, or that an exposure occurs at a level at which harm might occur. 
And also please keep in mind that there are cancer causing chemicals in lots of products, even cancer causing chemicals that occur naturally in products, including the foods we eat.  So don’t be unnecessarily alarmed by these results but they may encourage you to choose products without these chemicals. 
First, a little bit of background on 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde in beauty products. 
1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of the ethoxylation process by which certain chemicals are made milder or gentler.  Ethoxylated compounds are “eth” type compounds – sodium laureth sulfate, for example.  You won’t find 1,4-dioxane on the ingredient list because it isn’t an ingredient – it is a contaminant.  (See my post analyzing Johnson’s Head to Toe baby wash).  1,4-dioxane is listed on the California Prop. 65 list of chemicals known to the State to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity, and is identified by the US EPA as a probable human carcinogen.  The CPSC has stated that the presence of 1,4-dioxane, even as a trace contaminant, is a cause for concern, yet the FDA, the agency responsible for regulating cosmetics, does not have an established safe level for 1,4-dioxane in cosmetics.  (Such a surprise, right?)  1,4-dioxane is readily absorbed through the lungs, skin and the digestive system. 
Formaldehyde is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA.  Formaldehyde is also known to cause allergic reactions and rashes in some people.  Formaldehyde is used as an ingredient in some personal care products and is listed on the ingredient list for those products.  However, formaldehyde may also be present in beauty products because it is released from common preservatives that are known to be formaldehyde contributors, such as Quaternium-15, or Quat-15.  In those cases, formaldehyde is not listed on the ingredient list because it isn’t an ingredient. 
Both of these are chemicals that you may not want in your baby’s bath products.   If you were already worried about synthetic fragrance and phthalates, you can add 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde to your list of stuff to be concerned about.  (Okay, but don’t be overly alarmed.)  And another reason to shift to baby products free of such items, like Earth Mama Angel Baby products (my favorite baby products and why I’m an affiliate). 
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetic’s report found out of the 48 common products it tested for 1,4-dioxane, 32 of the products contained the carcinogen.  American Girl shower products contained the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane of the products tested. 
The Campaign also tested 28 of these 48 products for formaldehyde and found that 23 of the 28 products contained formaldehyde at levels ranging from 54 to 610 ppm (skin reactions have been found at levels as low as 250 ppm).  Baby Magic Baby Lotion by Ascendia Brands contained the highest levels of formaldehyde of the products tested. 
Further, some products contained both.  Products that contained both 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde include Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, Sesame Street Bubble Bath, Grins and Giggles Milk & Honey Baby Wash (a little annoying because it is marketed as a “natural” line) and Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber and Green Tea Baby Wash. 
Here’s the complete list of findings adapted from the report: 
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Product Name and Company 1,4-dioxane (in parts per million) Formaldehyde (in parts per million)
Lotions    
American Girl Hopes and Dreams Shimmer Body Lotion (Bath & Body Works) ND* 310
Baby Magic “Soft Baby Scent” Baby Lotion (Ascendia Brands, Inc) ND* 570
Baby Magic “Soft Baby Scent” Baby Lotion (Ascendia Brands, Inc) 0.92 610
Baby Magic “Soft Baby Scent” Baby Lotion (Ascendia Brands, Inc) ND* 330
Johnson’s Bedtime Lotion Natural Calm Essences (Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies) ND* Not tested for this chemical
Mustela Baby Body Lotion (Laboratories Expanscience) ND* Not tested for this chemical
Tinker Bell Body Lotion (Goldie LLC) ND* 220
Shampoos    
CVS Baby Shampoo (CVS/Pharmacy) 0.92 350
Johnson’s Baby Shampoo (Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies) ND* 200
Johnson’s Baby Shampoo (Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies) 1.1 210
L’Oreal Kids Extra Gentle 2-in-1 Fast Dry Shampoo — Burst of Cool Melon (L’Oreal USA) 0.95 260
Suave Kids 2-in-1 Shampoo — Wild Watermelon (Unilever) 0.69 ND*
Liquid Shower Soaps    
American Girl Hopes and Dreams Glistening Shower and Bath Wash (Bath & Body Works) 14 Not tested for this chemical
American Girl Real Beauty Inside and Out Shower Gel — Apple Blossom (Bath & Body Works) 6.3 210
American Girl Real Beauty Inside and Out Shower Gel — Apple Blossom (Bath & Body Works) 5.7 220
American Girl Real Beauty Inside and Out Shower Gel — Apple Blossom (Bath & Body Works) 18 150
American Girl Real Beauty Inside and Out Shower Gel — Sunny Orange (Bath & Body Works) 35 ND*
Bath Washes    
Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Creamy Wash (Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies) 1.4 Not tested for this chemical
Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Creamy Wash (Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies) 1.7 Not tested for this chemical
Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Creamy Wash (Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies) 4.6 Not tested for this chemical
CVS Kids Body Wash — Blueberry Blast (CVS/Pharmacy) 0.75 54
Equate Tearless Baby Wash (Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.) 0.63 290
Gentle Naturals Eczema Baby Wash (Del Pharmaceuticals, Inc.) 6.4 Not tested for this chemical
Grins & Giggles Milk & Honey Baby Wash (Gerber Products Company) 2.8 400
Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wash (Kimberly-Clark) 3.2 410
Johnson’s Moisture Care Baby Wash (Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies) 3.9 Not tested for this chemical
Johnson’s Oatmeal Baby Wash — Vanilla (Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies) 4.2 Not tested for this chemical
Mustela Baby Shampoo (Laboratories Expanscience) 2.8 Not tested for this chemical
Mustela Dermo-Cleansing Gel for Hair and Body Newborn/Baby (Laboratories Expanscience) 3.9 Not tested for this chemical
Night-time Bath Baby Wash (Target Corporation) 3.6 Not tested for this chemical
Bubble Baths    
Barbie Berry Sweet Bubble Bath (Water-Jel Technologies) 0.65 440
Dora the Explorer Bubble Bath (MZB Personal Care) 1.5 130
Hot Wheels Berry Blast Bubble Bath (Water-Jel Technologies) 2.8 100
Mustela Multi-Sensory Bubble Bath (Laboratories Expanscience) 1.7 ND*
Sesame Street Bubble Bath — Orange Mango Tango (The Village Company) 2.8 340
Tinker Bell Scented Bubble Bath (Goldie LLC) 11 420
Baby Wipes    
Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wipes (Kimberly-Clark) ND* Not tested for this chemical
Huggies Soft Skin — Shea Butter (Kimberly-Clark Global Sales Inc) ND* 100
Kirkland Signature Premium Unscented Baby Wipes (Costco Wholesale Corporation) ND* Not tested for this chemical
Pampers Baby Fresh (Procter & Gamble) ND* Not tested for this chemical
Pampers Calming — Lavender (Procter & Gamble) ND* Not tested for this chemical
Hair Relaxers    
Dark & Lovely Kids Beautiful Beginnings No-Mistake Nourishing No-Lye Creme Relaxer, Normal to Course Hair (SoftSheen-Carson, owned by L’Oreal USA) ND* Not tested for this chemical
Dark & Lovely Kids Beautiful Beginnings No-Mistake Nourishing No-Lye Children’s Relaxer System, Fine Hair Types (SoftSheen-Carson, owned by L’Oreal USA) ND* ND*
Soft & Beautiful Just for Me! No-Lye Conditioning Creme Relaxer, Children’s Super (Alberto-Culver Company) 0.27 ND*
Hand Soaps    
Pampers Kandoo Foaming Handsoap — Magic Melon (Procter & Gamble) 0.49 310
Sun Blocks    
Banana Boat Kids UVA & UVB Sunblock Lotion SPF 30 (Sun Pharmaceuticals Corp.) ND* Not tested for this chemical
No-Ad Sun Pals SPF 45 UVA/UVB Sun Protection (Solar Cosmetics Labs Inc.) 0.46 Not tested for this chemical
Toothpastes    
Colgate Kids 2-in-1 Toothpaste and Mouthwash — Strawberry (Colgate-Palmolive Company) ND* Not tested for this chemical
* Not detectable.

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  1. Have there been any new updates/information on this matter?

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