A hidden cancer-causing petrochemical has been found in dozens of children’s bath products and adults’ personal care products, in some cases at levels that are more than twice the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s lenient recommended maximum.
Laboratory tests released today revealed the presence of 1,4-Dioxane in products such as Hello Kitty Bubble Bath, Huggies Baby Wash, Johnson’s Baby Wash, Scooby-Doo Bubble Bath and Sesame Street Bubble Bath. The tests also found the carcinogen in Clairol Herbal Essences shampoo, Olay Complete Body Wash and many other personal care products.
1,4-Dioxane is a petroleum-derived contaminant considered a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a clear-cut animal carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program. It is also on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known or suspected by the state to cause cancer or birth defects. Because it is a contaminant produced during manufacturing, the FDA does not require it to be listed as an ingredient on product labels.
The problem of 1,4-Dioxane contamination in personal care products is highlighted in a new book, “Safe Trip to Eden: Ten Steps to Save the Planet Earth from the Global Warming Meltdown,” by David Steinman. The laboratory results were released jointly today at the National Press Club by Steinman and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of U.S.-based health and environmental groups working to protect cosmetics consumers from toxic chemicals and hold companies accountable for the safety of their products.
“Regrettably, 1,4-Dioxane contamination is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., executive director of the Breast Cancer Fund, a founding member of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Because the FDA does not require cosmetics products to be approved as safe before they are sold, companies can put unlimited amounts of toxic chemicals in cosmetics.”
Steinman said parents should be outraged that companies are willing to spend a significant amount of money on entertainment licensing agreements that entice children but won’t spend pennies to remove contaminants such as 1,4-Dioxane.
“Consumers who have young children, as I do, have the right to expect the highest purity in children’s products,” Steinman said. “I call on American consumers to say no to dangerous petrochemicals in their children’s cosmetic and personal care products.”
Contrary to what many consumers may believe, the FDA does not review or regulate cosmetics products or ingredients for safety before they are sold to the public and has no legal authority to require safety assessments of cosmetics.
Devra Lee Davis, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said that the usual regulatory approach of assessing risk one chemical at a time does not account for the combined effects of very low levels of hidden contaminants in personal care products and from other sources. “We must lower exposures to controllable agents that we know or suspect cause cancer,” she said.
The FDA has been measuring 1,4-Dioxane levels since 1979, but because the agency has little authority or enforcement capacity over the cosmetics industry, it has worked with manufacturers to reduce levels on a voluntary basis only. In 2000, the FDA recommended that cosmetic products should not contain 1,4-Dioxane at concentrations greater than 10 ppm (parts per million); yet some 15 percent of products tested exceeded even these lenient guidelines. This limit, however, also does not take into account that babies exposed to 1,4-Dioxane from baby shampoo may be exposed at the same time to 1,4-Dioxane from bubble bath, body wash and many other products.
More than two dozen products were tested at Steinman’s request by West Coast Analytical Service, an independent testing laboratory specializing in trace chemical analysis. Among the products tested:
Product and 1,4-Dioxane Concentration
Disney Clean as Can Bee Hair & Body Wash (Water Jel Technologies) 8.8 ppm
Disney Pixar Cars Piston Cup Bubble Bath (MZB Personal Care) 2.2 ppm
Gerber Grins & Giggles Gentle & Mild Aloe Vera Baby Shampoo 8.4 ppm
Hello Kitty Bubble Bath (Kid Care) 12 ppm*
Huggies Baby Wash Shea Butter 4.0 ppm
Huggies Natural Care Baby Wash Extra Gentle and Tear Free 4.2 ppm
Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Baby Wash (Johnson & Johnson) 5.3 ppm to 6.1 ppm
Johnson’s Kids Tigger Bath Bubbles (Johnson & Johnson) 5.6 ppm to 7.9 ppm
Johnson’s Kids Shampoo Watermelon Explosion (Johnson & Johnson) 10 ppm*
Lil’ Bratz Mild Bubble Bath (Kid Care) 3.7 ppm
L’Oreal Kids Orange Mango Smoothie Shampoo 2.0 ppm
Mr. Bubble Bubble Bath Gentle Formula with Aloe 1.5 ppm
Rite-Aid Tearless Baby Shampoo 4.3 ppm
Scooby-Doo Mild Bubble Bath (Kid Care) 3.0 ppm
Sesame Street Wet Wild Watermelon Bubble Bath (The Village Company) 7.4 ppm
Adult Consumer Products
Clairol Herbal Essences Rainforest Flowers Shampoo 23 ppm*
Olay Complete Body Wash with Vitamins (normal skin) 23 ppm*
Suave Naturals Passion Flower 2.0 ppm
*Product was at or above FDA maximum
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics