The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) released a report on March 12th detailing the widespread use of toxins in baby and children's bath products. The report entitled "No More Toxic Tub" found that 82% of the products tested contained formaldehyde and 61% contained both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane.
Again it seems that we are far behind the developed world in regulating and limiting our exposure to toxins. Both Canada and the EU have banned 1,4-dioxane from cosmetics. Formaldehyde has been banned from cosmetics in Sweden and Japan and is allowable only in a concentration under 0.2% in Canada and the EU. Another toxin mentioned in the report, Methylparaben, is also on the EU's Banned and Restricted List but is found in an alarming number of US products.
These substances seem to ubiquitous in baby shampoos, wipes and children's bath products. For the family trying to use hypoallergenic products marketed for children with sensitive skin, they may still be unknowingly applying formaldehyde, a potent skin irritant, to their little one's skin. Even Aquaphor contains sodium laureth sulfate and imidazolidinyl urea both of which, according to the CSC, are commonly contaminated by 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde respectively. In looking at my own daughter's Lansinoh wipes I found that they contain Methylparaben and thus would be banned from sale in Canada and the EU.
What is alarming is that these toxins can be and are removed when the products are manufactured for sale in other countries. However, since the US does not require them to do so, many manufacturers do not sell products in the US that meet the EU standards.
So how do you know what products are safe? The CSC report lists common ingredients likely to be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde. According to the CSC, you should also steer clear of Methylparaben and Triethanolamine. The CSC has also released the results of its testing and name brands such as Mustela, Johnson and Johnson, and Aveeno all have products that tested positive.
Short of the FDA overhauling its regulation of the cosmetic industry it is unlikely that these toxins will be removed from most products. But as with BPA in baby bottles, if the consumer makes a stand that they want toxin-free products someone will eventually develop a product to fulfill that niche.