Every parent wants what’s safest for their kids, especially when it comes to babies. Sadly, not many are aware that one of the most famous baby shampoos is loaded with suspected cancer-causing chemicals.
For the past couple of years, Johnson&Jonhson has been urged to stop adding two potential carcinogens from the baby shampoo.
It’s about Quaternium-15 which releases formaldehyde, a known skin, eye, and respiratory irritant, and also a dangerous carcinogen.
“The North American Contact Dermatitis Group considers quaternium-15 to be among the most clinically significant contact allergens in children” writes SafeCosmetics.org.
The other suspected carcinogen is 1,4-dioxane which is found in Johnson&Johnson’s:
- Baby shampoo
- Oatmeal baby wash
- Moisture care baby wash
- Aveeno baby soothing relief creamy wash
According to CDC, 1,4-dioxane is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and it is toxic to the brain, central nervous system, kidneys and liver.
When Johnson&Johnson was addressed a letter by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics on October 31, signed by 25 environmental and medical groups where it was required for the company to “commits to removing the chemicals from all of its products by November 15”, they responded to the letter stating the following:
“We have been phasing out the use of preservatives that release tiny amounts of formaldehyde to guard against bacterial contamination. These preservative technologies, which are used widely in our industry are all safe and approved in the countries where they are sold… Over the past couple of years, we already have reduced the number of formulations globally with these ‘formaldehyde releaser’ preservatives by 33% and in the U.S. by over 60%.
We are completing this reformulation as quickly as we can safely and responsibly do so. As part of the manufacturing process, we have extensive monitoring to ensure that the amount of a trace byproduct known as “1,4 dioxane” in any of our products is well below the level that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and regulatory agencies around the world consider safe.
…We have introduced new product formulations for consumers who prefer natural products, such as JOHNSON’S® NATURAL®, a line that is 98% natural, and contains no formaldehyde releasing preservatives or traces of 1,4 dioxane.”
Although their response seems reasonable, there are two flaws they didn’t pay attention to:
- The company already sells carcinogen-free version of the baby shampoo in other countries, meaning there is no need of any complicated reformulation.
- The Johnson&Johnson’s “Naturals” does not contain these chemicals, but it is twice as much as the regular baby shampoo, providing two carcinogen-free formulas at their disposal, and the line “We are completing this reformulation as quickly as we can safely and responsibly do so” seems more like a poor excuse.
The countries that sell the quaternium-15-free Johnson&Johnson products are:
- The Netherlands
- South Africa
- The U.K.
“And it’s not like the company removed an essential ingredient to meet environmental restrictions in these countries. While some have banned the use of quaternium-15, it’s unclear why some of these countries are being treated to the carcinogen-free shampoo” writes Jezebel.
In order to avoid formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, you should pay close attention to the other chemicals listed on the label that release the chemical, since the chemical itself is not mentioned.
The ingredients that can contaminate the products with formaldehyde:
- DMDM hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Diazolidinyl urea
There are also ingredients that create 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct:
- PEG-100 stearate
- Sodium laureth sulfate
- Sodium myreth sulfate
Other products that can harm you and your child are:
- Chemicals that include the clauses “xynol,” “ceteareth,” and “oleth”
- Diethanolamine or DEA. This is a potential carcinogen that readily reacts with nitrite preservatives and contaminants, and creates NDEA, or nitrosodiethanolamine, which is another potent carcinogen. The chemical prevents the absorption of choline, a nutrient that is vital to brain development
- Propylene Glycol. It is a common ingredient in shampoos that is a known strong skin irritant that can also cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.
- Parabens. Commonly labeled as methyl paraben, ethyl paraben, propyl paraben, butyl paraben, isobutyl paraben, or E216, they are preservatives that according to many studies affect the body like estrogens, which can eventually lead to diminished muscle mass, excess fat storage, and male gynecomastie, or breast growth. Other studies link parabens with breast cancer, because researchers have found parabens in every tissue sample from 20 different breast tumors. Moreover, the EPA demonstrated a link between methyl parabels and metabolic, developmental, hormonal, and neurological disorders, and also various cancers.
The Environmental Working Group surveyed 3,300 parents four years ago where they compared the baby products they used to the list of chemicals that cause allergies, hormone disruption, damages to the nervous system, and cancer. The results showed that babies are regularly exposed to 27 chemicals, and none of these has ever been tested for safety.
Here are the threatening ingredients outlined in the review:
- 2 bromo, 2 nitropropane, and 3-DIOL – cause allergies and skin In some products, these ingredients break down and form cancer-causing agents
- Sodium borate – found in Desitin diaper cream, can accumulate in baby’s brains and liver and cause detrimental health problems
- Oxybenzone – a common ingredient in sunscreens, can trigger allergies, and disrupt baby’s hormone system
- Shockingly, 89% of the products labeled “Recommended by doctor” are the worst threats that contain the most dangerous chemicals.
- According to a 2007 EWG study:
- 82 percent of babies are exposed every week to one or more chemicals that harm their brain and nervous system
- 60% of the babies are exposed every week to ingredients that disrupt the nervous system
- 6% of babies are exposed to ingredients associated with cancer, including chemicals determined as known or potential human carcinogens
- 80% of baby products labeled as gentle and non-irritating actually contain substances linked to allergies and skin or eye irritations
The best way to protect your family from these horrible and harmful chemicals is by switching to organic substitutes of the commercial products. The skin absorbs the chemicals and transports them directly into the blood stream, and they can do a lot more damage that way than when they are absorbed orally.
But, be careful as not all products labeled as “natural” or “organic” are actually wholly natural or organic, because “greenwashing” has become quite pervasive.
You can evaluate the safeness pf the products you purchase on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep site.
To make sure you’re buying safe products you should look for products that:
- Contain the genuine USDA Organic Seal
- If there’re chemicals hard to pronounce, you probably should not apply it on your body.
- If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin
- Choose fragrance-free products. Fragrances are a major cause of allergies.
- Pay special attention to the order in which the ingredients are labeled. For instance, if calendula extract is the last ingredient listed, the calendula body wash you just bought is not that natural.
- Choose products in glass bottles. Chemicals easily leach out of plastics and directly into the content. Also, pay close attention to Bisphenol A (BPA), and make sure that the plastic containers are BPA-free.
- Go for products that are made by Earth- and animal-friendly companies committed to organic and sustainable business practice.
In the book Our Toxic Works: a Wake up Call by Dr. Doris Rapp, you can read about uncovered many ways of exposure to toxins, and how they affect your health, causing many chronic diseases of modern times.
You can also take matter into your hands by:
- Voting with your pocketbook: Until Johnson&Johnson starts producing safer baby products, buy safer alternatives. You can search EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetic database for safer products
- Sign the petition for Johnson&Johnson to remove formaldehyde-releasing ingredients from the baby products in all countries and offer safer alternatives.
- Ask your US Representative to support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011