Babies across America are sitting in bubbles tainted with cancer-causing chemicals and other toxins linked to serious health effects, according to a consumer group.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says it hired an independent lab to test bubble bath, baby lotion and other products intended for babies and children — purchased in cities across the U.S. — for 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde. Both chemicals are contaminants that do not appear on product labels, and both are carcinogenic; formaldehyde can also trigger rashes in those with sensitive skin.
The lab tested 48 kids' products for 1.4-dioxane and reportedly found it in 67 percent of the products. Of the 28 products tested for formaldehyde, 82 percent were said to be positive.
Seventeen products were contaminated with both 1.4-dioxane and formaldehyde. Many of the contaminated products are advertised as "gentle," "pure" or "naturally refreshing."
"We know that cosmetics can be made without hazardous ingredients and contaminants," the group said in a statement. "So what's going on? How is it legal for companies to sell baby and kids' skincare products that contain toxic chemicals used in embalming fluid, fumigants and automotive coolant? Worse yet, these chemicals aren't even on the label, so even the most ingredient-conscious parents wouldnt know whether the product is safe."
Consumer product companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, dismissed the report as alarmist and misleading.
"The FDA and other government agencies around the world consider these trace levels safe, and all our products meet or exceed the regulatory requirements in every country where they are sold," Johnson & Johnson said in a statement. "We are disappointed that the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has inaccurately characterized the safety of our products, misrepresented the overwhelming consensus of scientists and government agencies that review the safety of ingredients, and unnecessarily alarmed parents."
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics cites the National Academy of Sciences in reporting several factors that can 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.
The chemicals were not disclosed on product labels because they're contaminants, not ingredients, and therefore are exempt from labeling laws.
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, the group said.
1.4-dioxane is a byproduct of a chemical processing technique called ethoxylation, in which cosmetic ingredients are processed with ethylene oxide. The group says manufacturers can easily remove the toxic byproducts, but are not required by law to do so.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a national coalition of nonprofit health and environmental organizations. It says its goal is to protect the health of consumers and workers by requiring the personal care products industry to phase out the use of chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other serious health concerns, and replace them with safer alternatives.