June Junk Claim #3 – Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Dish Soap Not So Clean As It Contains 1,4-Dioxane

June Junk Claim #3 is Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap and the company’s claim that the products are “always EARTH FRIENDLY.”

Mrs. Meyer’s products are sold and marketed as “green” products. The packaging is retro inspired cute.

But, the thing is, they are not as eco-friendly as you think. For example, the Dish Soap was found to have high levels of the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane. In fact, according to testing commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), Mrs. Meyers’ Clean Day Dish Soap had the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane in the group of products tested. The levels in the Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap were 204 parts per million (ppm), ten times higher than any other similar product in the study.

1,4-dioxane is a by-product of the ethoxylation process. Ethoxylation is used to make certain ingredients milder and change solubility and foaming properties. It involves the addition of petroleum-derived ethylene oxide. You’ll find 1,4-dioxane in products with ethoxylated ingredients, usually identified by the “eth” – such as sodium laureth sulfate. Several “eth” ingredients are derived from natural sources – such as coconut – so you’ll find carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane in a number of products that claim to be derived from natural ingredients.

Unfortunately, the ethoxylation process results in a contaminant, 1,4-dioxane. So those allegedly naturally derived ingredients can have a carcinogence contaminant that is not identified on the ingredient label.

And Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Dish Soap has it.

I don’t know if using the product poses a health risk. Since it is a rinse off product intended for use on dishes, I wouldn’t think that there is much dermal exposure (exposure through the skin) at all. Even if used as a hand soap I doubt there is any significant dermal exposure. And exposure from inhalation is probably minimal too.

But, the presence of carcinogenic 1,4-dixoane as a result of using petroleum derived ethylene oxide doesn’t really seem earth friendly to me.

Understanding Labels: PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil & Greenwashing

The personal care/beauty product industry is rampant with greenwashing. Of course – more than 70% of us say we will buy something if we believe it is “natural.” Why wouldn’t the beauty industry try to capture our dollars by marketing their products as natural?

Natural is not a defined legal term. It has no regulatory meaning. So the Food and Drug Administration isn’t policing “natural” claims on cosmetic products (although the Federal Trade Commission may be looking at green claims).

To be honest, the FDA isn’t policing much of anything when it comes to beauty products. The FDA does not conduct premarket testing or reviews of products to determine if they are safe. That is probably the biggest myth of all – that if a product is on the shelf, some government agency must have tested it to make sure it is safe.

So, in any event, basically a company is free to slap that “natural” label on any product. And the companies do.

One of the favorite tactics is “derived from.” As in, this ingredient is derived from coconuts. On the list of ingredients, you’ll see some long sounding chemical name, like ethylmethyldeath, followed by a innocuous name in paranetheses.  So, ethylmethyldeath (coconut). And you think to yourself that it must be totally natural and okay because, well, it comes from coconuts – the company just had to put this chemical name for some reason.

That isn’t always the case. Often, the ingredient is a long way from its natural root.

Take PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, often identified as PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil (Castor Oil). And you think, okay, well it is castor oil. You think, well, that’s nasty to swallow but I know it is natural. Castor oil is obtained from the castor seed. (By the way, did you know that the castor seed contains ricin, an extremely toxic protein removed during cold pressing and filtering. Harvesting castor beans is risky – allergenic compounds on the plant can cause permanent nerve damage. Workers have suffered harmful side effects when harvesting the plants.)

In any event, while castor oil is natural, the PEG-40 in front of this ingredient changes things. As it does with PEG-30 castor oil, PEG-33 castor oil, PEG-35 castor oil and PEG-36 castor oil. These compounds are polyethylene glycol derivatives of castor oil. And, well technically, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil is a polyethylene glycol derivative of hydrogenated castor oil.

What that means is that the castor oil is ethoxylated with ethylene oxide, a petroleum based chemical. Ethylene oxide comes from ethylene (ethylene is oxidized to produce ethylene oxide), and ethylene comes from petroleum via steam cracking. Petroleum may be natural, but it probably isn’t what you meant by natural. And it certainly is not a renewable resource.

As a by-product of the ethoxylation process, the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane may be present as a contaminant unless it is controlled and removed. You won’t see 1,4 dioxane on the ingredient list because it is a contaminant, not an ingredient. But you won’t be able to tell from the product’s label whether the 1,4 dioxane was removed or not – you’ll have to contact the manufacturer to find out.

In terms of safety, absent the carcinogenic concerns with the 1,4-dioxane contaminant, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil is relatively safe on the scale of things. You should know that it isn’t safe for use on injured or damaged skin. It gets a 4 to 6 on EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database because of the contamination concern, because of some limits on use, and because of limited evidence of sense organ toxicity.

But the point is is the PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil just isn’t natural – it can’t be with the use of ethylene oxide to produce it. So any product containing it claiming to be natural is just a bunch of hogwash. Or greenwash.

Greenwashing: Beaute de Maman not so beautiful. Or particularly natural.

Polyetheylene plastic beads

I just don’t get the popularity of Beaute de Maman. Or why the line won an Editor’s Choice Award from Pregnancy Magazine in December of last year.

I really don’t get it.

The line is expensive.

But people like it because it is natural. I’ve found it in very upscale boutiques, with sales people touting its benefits.

But, the line is guilty of greenwashing.

 The product advertising states that

Beaute de Maman was conceived by Dr. Brown, an obstetrician whose ongoing mission is to provide safe and effective remedies for the common problems women face during pregnancy. Her fine line of skincare products has been extensively studied and evaluated, as well as allergy and obstetrician tested. The entire line contains only natural and herbal ingredients proven safe for the mother-to-be, the fetus and the breastfeeding baby. 

Those natural claims are repeated in the Connecticut Post and other press about Beaute De Maman.

And therein is my problem. The entire line is supposed to contain “only natural and herbal ingredients” but that isn’t true. Well, at least by my definition of natural.

Let’s take the first product – the facial scrub. The ingredients are:

Water (Purified), Glycerol Stearate, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Butylene Glycol, Disodium Laureth Sulfocucinate, Sodium Cocoyl, Methyl Taurate, Polyethylene, PEG-100 stearate, Myristyl Myristate, Tridecyl Stearate, Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Tridecyl Trimellitate, Phenoxyethanol, Acrylates/C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, DMDM Hydantoin, Caprylyl Glycol, Triethanolamine, Iodopropynyl Butycarbamate

Okay, now realize that polyethylene is a plastic derived from petroleum. That means that this allegedly all natural and herbal facial scrub has tiny microbeads of plastic that pollute our oceans.

Guess what? Lots of the other ingredients are very, very far from “natural.” Take butylene glycol. It is produced by the petrochemical industry by steam cracking. In other words, saturated petroleum hydrocarbons are broken down into small hydrocarbons. Or take triethanolamine. Triethanolamine is produced by reacting ethylene oxide with ammonia. In turn, ethylene oxide comes from ethylene and oxygen, and ethylene is produced by the petrochemical industry by steam cracking.

Okay, how are those natural? Or herbal?

Last year, I tried to speak with Beaute de Maman about its products. I was specifically interested in the natural claim and also contaminants being present in ceretain ingredients. And I got a fairly snotty response from Laureen Schroeder, VP of Marketing, that kept emphasizing how the company has access to research not available to the rest of us.

First, and most importantly, she said that “we do not claim to be 100% natural – as we could not be effective.” Huh? Isn’t that at odds with the advertising?

She also said:

Our products have been researched using databases and reproduction toxicity reports available only to physicians. . . . According to Reprotox, which are physician only databases  . . .”

Okay Ms. Schroeder, hate to tell you, but Reprotox is a subscription service available to physicians and consumers. So, yes, I use the same databases that you do.

So, many of the ingredients in the facial scrub peaked my interest. Ethylhexyl palmitate, for example, is an irritant, and the CIR panel warns against using in products for use around the eyes or on the skin above a certain concentration. Butylene glycol has the same problem. Several ingredients are ethoxylated and can have the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane as a contaminant, including disodium laureth sulfocucinate and PEG-100 stearate. Phenoxyethanol is phenol reacted with ethylene oxide, which again is petroleum derived.

Now, Ms. Schroeder states that the “facial scrub has no dioxane or carcinogenic compounds. All ingredients used are pure with no contaminants. Again, Intertek, or the FDA of England, did extensive testing of all products and determined that repeated exposure to the ingredients will not cause skin irritation, even with prolonged or repeated use. The ingredients used are well known and present at typical concenetrations where they will not cause irritation or allergy and are deemed safe. There is no formaldehyde or carcinogenic ingredients.”

Okay, so it seems that perhaps the ethoxylated ingredients are vacuum stripped to eliminate the 1,4 dioxane. But when I asked about the detection level used (and we know that is important after the SIGG debacle), I didn’t get a response.

Obviously, formaldehyde isn’t an ingredient. But her statement that there is no formaldehyde doesn’t address whether there are formaldehyde donors. The thing is about formaldehyde donors is that they work by releasing small quantities of formaldehyde to make the environment – the product – less favorable to microorganisms. So how can she claim that there is no formaldehyde produced? I get it that the levels may be very small, but still. Formaldehyde, by the way, is a carcinogen. It also causes contact dermantitis. DMDM Hydantoin, for example, is a formaldehyde donor. Setting asside the whole formaldehyde issue, DMDM Hydantoin is also an irritant, a known human immune system toxicant, and is a human skin toxicant. It is restricted for use in cosmetics in Japan. It gets a 7 to 9 (depending on use) in Skin Deep’s Cosmetic Safety Database.

I’m also completely unconvinced by the reliance upon Reprotox. Beaute de Maman banks on its claims that the products are safe for pregnant women. (I have some questions about the specific claims because, well, they seem to cross into the product being a drug, not a cosmetic, but that is for the FDA. And the FTC.) But the thing is, we know that there have not be adequate toxicology reviews of most of the chemicals we use. Looking at the Reprotox entry for DMDM Hydantoin, for example, there is no information in Reprotox other than the CIR’s assessment from 1988. Hello? There has been more information since the industry-funded panel looked at it – and the CIR only considers irritant/allergen type responses for the most part, not developmental toxicity.

And, by the way, Beaute de Maman claims that “these products, cosmeceuticals, have medicinal propertiers in their ingredients ensuring the safety of both mother-to-be and baby.” That certainly sounds like they are super special, right? Just so you know, the FDA does not recognize any such category as “cosmeceutical”, as Beaute de Maman asserts that the products are. A product is a drug, a cosmetic, or a combination of both, but the term “cosmeceutical” has no meaning under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Why is 1,4 dioxane found in “organic” shampoos?

You’ve made the switch to natural or organic personal care products in an effort to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals.  You recognize that the words “natural” and “organic” don’t necessarily mean all that much when it comes to personal care products but you’ve read the labels and are confident in what you bought.  Then, just when you were confident you had done a good thing, you find out that many so-called natural or organic personal care products contain 1,4-dioxane.  What?  The label doesn’t disclose it.  Why the heck would there be 1,4-dioxane in my organic shampoo? 

The Organic Consumers Association released a study that found 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen, in products from JASON Pure Natural & Organic, Giovanni Organic Cosmetics, Kiss My Face and Nature’s Gate Organics.  About 50% of the products tested had 1,4 dioxane.  A complete list of the products can be found here

The reason?  1,4-dioxane is a contaminant resulting from the ethoxylation.  To make certain ingredients mild, ethylene oxide is added.  A byproduct of this process is 1,4 dioxane. 
So, you can avoid it by not buying products with myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth or any other “eth”; also skip PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene or oxynol.  Another trick – buy products that are certified USDA Organic.  All the USDA Organic certified products in the study were 1,4-dioxane free, including Dr. Bronner’s, Sensibility Soaps (Nourish) and Terressentials (one of my faves!). 
1,4 dioxane is found in numerous conventional personal care products, including Hello Kitty bubble bath to Huggies baby wash to Johhson’s baby wash.  In fact, in conventional products, 1,4-dioxane is found in 57% of baby soap and 34% of body lotions.

Guess I’m not just a hysterical mommy blogger-Johnson & Johnson asked to clean up baby shampoo

woman throwing somethingHysterical mommy blogger? I think not. Well, if I am, I am at least in good company.  

Last week, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics delivered a letter to asking J&J to eliminate the carcinogens 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde, and hormone disrupting phthalates, from its personal care products. The letter was signed by almost 50 organizations, from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Nurses Association. In other words, it isn’t just mommy bloggers that are concerned about the products our children use. We are not hysterical. 

The letter was delivered by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. If you recall, the Campaign was responsible for the No More Toxic Tub report. That report identified the presence of the carcinogens 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde in its popular baby products. Prior to the report coming out, I had posted about how J&J’s baby wash was definitely not as gentle to the eyes as consumers might assume given J&J’s family friendly face. With the release of No More Toxic Tub, the members of the Green Moms Carnival, including yours truly, posted and posted about the report, garnering the attention of industry organizations and industry representatives. In fact, a PR firm spent time slamming us and posting comments, but J&J refused to provide substantive answers to our questions.

 J&J’s response to my inquiry with certain questions about its products and the No More Toxic Tub report, resulted in a form email containing this enlightening statement but no substantive answer:

 We want to reassure parents that JOHNSON’S Baby Shampoo and all our baby and kids products are safe, gentle and mild products that they can trust and use with confidence.

Do you believe this statement? You may. The statement is true in the sense that the products comply with the FDA’s requirements. But the FDA does not approve cosmetic ingredients before the are used. The FDA’s oversight of cosmetic safety is very lax.

 In any event, J&J’s baby shampoo and other products contain the carcinogens 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde. They also contain hormone disrupting phthalates. These ingredients are not disclosed on the label. 1,4 dioxane is a contaminant in certain ethoxylated ingredients. Formaldehyde is released from certain preservatives, called formaldehyde donor preservatives (such as Quat 15). Phthalates are found in fragrance. I don’t believe that these ingredients are what moms think about when they consider products safe, gentle and mild. I certainly don’t.

 I also think that it is odd that a company with such a family friendly image would continue to use such ingredients and would also refuse to answer our questions.

Products can be made without the ingredients at a comparable price point. In fact, lots of companies do it already. And, funny thing is, J&J makes products for the Japan market WITHOUT formaldehye donor preservatives. Which is completely ironic considering that industry spokespeople posted in comments on several blogs that well, without formaldehyde donor preservatives, a host of bad things could occur, like blindness. 

 In any event, I was pleased to see that the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics had delivered a letter that resulted in media coverage. I was also gratified to find out that the our famous Green Moms Carnival organizer, Lynn from OrganicMania, received an email from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics thanking us:

Normally a letter like this wouldn’t raise much interest, but clearly people are outraged that such a trusted product as Johnson’s Baby Shampoo could contain carcinogens. I think the Green Moms Carnival was really helpful in tipping parents off to this problem when we released the “Toxic Tub” report in March – thank you. We’re hopeful that the company will reconsider its position that “a little bit” of a carcinogen is nothing to worry about.
Thanks for your good work. 
Marisa Walker 

So, I’ll keep urging change. I’ll keep using my money to buy products I support. Products without these harmful ingredients, with more sustainable packaging, and that don’t rely on non renewable resources.  

If that’s hysterical, so be it.

Oh, don’t worry, you’re just a mommy blogger & just a little bit of a carcinogen is okay

circle of kidsYes, I’m a “mommy blogger.” Yes, I try to practice a green lifestyle.  Yes, I choose to buy products without certain ingredients in an effort to provide a safer lifestyle for my kids.  I choose the alternatives.  I sort of think that it makes sense to be safe instead of sorry, especially when alternatives are available at pretty much the same price point.  And I’d rather give my money to a company doing the Earth some good.

That does not make me a hysterical mommy blogger.  That does not make me stupid. 

I understand the dose response relationship.  Yes, I’m well aware that traditional toxicology is founded on the principle the dose makes the poison, as I am also aware that the current school of toxicology thought is the dose and the timing make the poison.  Yes, I get it. 

A representative from the Formaldehyde Council has been making the rounds commenting on our various blog posts suggesting that we don’t know what we are talking about. There are also some twitterers who also respond to our tweets suggesting that we just don’t get the science. We are mommy bloggers. 

Hey, paid PR people (as we have discovered they are), do you get the science? And, by the way, do you understand that my children don’t use just one product?  That we have sources of formaldehyde and dioxane elsewhere in our lives?  That the cumulative exposure to certain chemicals, and how they may work together, might make the exposure and risk more significant?  

And, by the way, if you are bathing your child, and you have the option of a product with and one without 1,4 dioxane at the same price and the same effectiveness, are you really going to tell me you would pick the product with 1,4 dioxane in it? 

Or will you not drink the chromium tainted water either? (Reference to Erin Brokovich if you don’t get it.) 

What the heck am I talking about? 

green moms carnival logoThe Green Moms Carnival this month blogged about 1,4 dioxane, formaldehyde and other problemmatic ingredients in baby bath products.  You really should go check out Sommer at Green & Clean Mom who hosted this carnival. 

Why did we tackle this topic?  Because, a couple of weeks ago, the Environmental Working Group released a report (No More Toxic Tub) that looked at the concentrations of two carcinogens, 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, in baby bath products.  The information that these compounds are present in personal care products isn’t new (I’ve posted before about their presence in so called natural personal care products and litigation in California), but the focus on concentrations in baby bath products was new.  At the same time, in a case of bad timing, at least to the members of the Green Moms Carnival, Johnson & Johnson announced a new social media campaign using mommy bloggers to talk about its baby bath products and launched a video campaign using children bathing, with the top video being awarded $10,000. 

I called out the spokesperson, Angie Harmon, and Johnson & Johnson for purporting to be green yet continuing to use petroleum based ingredients containing carcinogens in non recycled content bottles.  And the other Green Moms were upset too, each with a different take on the issue.  Let me be clear – we understand that the EWG’s report does not purport to assess whether exposure actually occurs or whether that exposure would result in a health effect. 

Some of the commenters, particularly a representative of The Formaldehyde Council, keep saying that it is just a little bit, nothing to worry about.  Okay, that may be true – but I really don’t care.  I worry about the cumulative risk of exposure.  My kid will not just get 1,4 dioxane from one product, but from several products, plus other sources.  In fact, my kids get exposed to all sorts of chemicals, manmade & naturally occuring.  (Yes, I understand that carcinogens naturally occur in certain foods. You don’t need to tell me.)  So, if I can, I will use my money to support the company that can make the product without those potentially harmful ingredients. 

And. to be frank, everybody said that lead in paint was safe for YEARS.  Think about it – the first reported health effects linked to lead paint were in 1904.  Yet, in the 1940’s, after France and England and even Cuba had banned lead in residential paint, the US paint industry was still telling us lead in paint was safe.  We didn’t even get around to limiting lead in consumer paints and painted products until the 1970s. 

Alice Hamilton was called hysterical, yet her work helped protect countless workers.    

Everybody said that lead in gasoline didn’t really contribute to children’s blood lead levels.  Yet, banning lead as a gasoline additive has resulted in a dramatic drop in children’s blood lead levels (along with the limit on lead in certain consumer paints). 

DES was supposed to be safe.  So were PCBs.  As was DDT.  Now we have flame retardants, phthalates, triclosan and more that are being called into question. 

Do you see a pattern here?  We don’t always know what is safe or not, sometimes hazards pop up long after a compound is deemed safe.  (DES anybody?) We don’t always know what will harm our environment or not.  Unintended consequences often happen.  Synthetic chemicals persist in the environment, or react with other compounds, causing problems down the road.  (Yes, we still find PCBs and DDT in our homes and our bodies, including newborn cord blood, 30 years after they were banned.)  

So for me – I pick the products without those potentially harmful or questionable ingredients when I have a choice. 

And what do we use?  I love Earth Mama Angel Baby products.  California Baby is great too.  We use a lot of inexpensive plain liquid castile soap too – cheaper than almost every single conventional product on the market.  There are lots of wonderful products out there without phthalates, 1,4 dioxane or formaldehyde.  And most of those companies use less packaging, use recycled content packaging, steer clear of using any non renewable resource, etc.  I’d rather use my money for those products because, well, my children deserve it.  And so does the Earth.

Hey, Angie Harmon, You Can’t Kinda Go Green: Faulting Johnson’s Social Media Baby Product Campaign


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: 

Product Name and Company 1,4-dioxane (in parts per million) Formaldehyde (in parts per million)
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
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
Colgate Kids 2-in-1 Toothpaste and Mouthwash — Strawberry (Colgate-Palmolive Company) ND* Not tested for this chemical
* Not detectable.

A Label Reading Lesson: Johnson & Johnson’s Head to Toe Baby Wash

I’m always harping on about reading labels.  I know it is difficult to read labels while shopping with kids.  Who has time to read the label on each product with 2 kids tugging on you, demanding to go to the toy section right now! At least, that is what happens to me if I am shopping at Target.  So, not only is it hard to have time to read labels while shopping, it is even harder to figure out what the label says.  

And those labels can be tricky to decipher.  And what about the claims on the packaging?  Can you trust them? 

Well, let’s look at a baby staple.  Johnson’s Head-to-Toe baby wash from Johnson & Johnson.  And let’s hope I don’t get sued. 

First, let’s look at the claims.  The website advertises the product as “an ultra-mild cleanser for your baby’s skin and hair that’s gentle enough even for newborns.”  It also proclaims it “the #1 choice of hospitals” and “milder than baby soap.”  The “no more tears” formula is “as gentle to the eyes as pure water” and the product is “soap-free, dye-free, hypoallergenic and allergy- and dermatologist-tested.” 
baby washNone of these claims, including hypoallergenic, allergy-tested and dermatologist-tested have any regulatory meaning.  Keep in mind that, according to the Food & Drug Administration, a cosmetic company does not have to prove its claims or the efficacy of the products.  There is no regulatory definition of “hypoallergenic” – you think it means that the product will not cause allergic reactions or irritant responses.  Keep that thought in mind when we discuss the ingredients.  A company can label a product as “hypoallergenic” without having any proof to back up that claim.  There are no standardized guidelines for this claim, just as there are no guidelines for dermatologist tested or allergy tested.  Before we can talk about the claim that the product is “as gentle to the eyes as pure water,” we need to talk about the ingredients.  The ingredients are: 

Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, PEG-150 Distearate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Chloride, Polyquaternium-10, Fragrance, Quaternium-15, Citric Acid. 

PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate and PEG-150 Distearate are all ethoxylated compounds.  Ethoxylated compounds, unless vacuum stripped, are contaminated with 1,4-dioxane.  1,4-dioxane has been identified as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  1,4-dioxane is not listed on the ingredient list because it is a contaminant from the manufacturing process, not an ingredient.  The FDA encourages manufacturers to remove 1,4-dioxane from products, but there is no requirement that it be done.  And, testing reported by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics did find 1,4-dioxane in Johnson’s Head-to-Toe baby wash at 5.3 to 6.1 parts per million (ppm).  In fact, in its FAQ section of its website, Johnson & Johnson admits that “[s]ome of the ingredients in our products may contain 1,4-dioxane as an incidental ingredient at extremely low levels.” 

Further, sodium laureth sulfate can cause eye and skin irritation.  Do you think that is consistent with the claim that the product is “hypoallergenic”?  Wouldn’t you expect it to be free of any ingredient known to cause irritant responses?  As a note, sodium laureth sulfate was widely reported on the web as being a carcinogen, but, at least to date, research by the EPA, OSHA, NTP and IARC has not suggested that sodium laureth sulfate is a carcinogen.   

Cocamidopropyl betaine, PEG-80 sorbitan laurate and PEG-150 disterate can all cause allergic reactions.  Again, these ingredients aren’t what you would expect in a product advertising itself as hypoallergenic.  Cocamidopropyl betaine may also be contaminated with nitrosamines. 

Quaternium-15 may release formaldehyde.  Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.  But, I actually think that Quat-15, as it is called, is more of a problem because it is the number one cause of contact dermatitis from preservatives, according to the American Acadmey of Dermatology’s Testing Tray results.  Also, it is identified by the cosmetic industry’s Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel as a sensitizer, but is still considered safe by the CIR as a cosmetic ingredient.  (If you want to learn about the function of the CIR, I encourage you to read Stacy Malkan’s Not Just A Pretty Face).  It has also been linked to birth defects in laboratory animals when administered orally. 

Finally, the product contains “fragrance” – which means synthetic fragrance and, of course, phthalates.  Phthalates are used in fragrance to sustain the fragrance and make it adsorb better to the skin.  Johnson & Johnson admits that it uses diethyl phthalate (DEP) in its baby products.  And, as reported in a recent study, exposure to DEP in baby care products results in the presence of a DEP metabolite in baby urine.  Phthalates are endocrine disruptors, which means that they can mimic hormones and disrupt’s the body’s normal function.  Phthalates have been linked to premature breast development in girls, deteriorated sperm quality, low sperm counts and poor sperm morphology in men, and a host of other adverse health effects.   

So, how can this product claim to be “as gentle to the eyes are pure water” when it contains a host of chemicals known to be irritants, allergens or sensitizers?  And do you really want to use it on your baby?  I think that this staple baby product should be thrown out with the bath water.  But, hey, that’s just me. 
If you are looking for phthlate free baby care products, I have some listed here.