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Toxic Tub: Formaldehyde Found in Baby Shampoo Purchased in MA

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March 13, 2009

Boston, MA – New product testing seems to show some baby shampoos and other children’s bath products advertised as "safe and gentle" may not be, afterall. The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow tested baby shampoos and bath products purchased in Massachusetts and found two chemicals the Environmental Protection Agency has ruled are "probably human carcinogens" in most of the products. The tests found formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, although they were not listed on the label.

Elizabeth Saunders, program manager for Clean Water Action in Boston, says there are no federal regulations or safety testing for personal care product ingredients.

"There is no known safe level of either formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane, especially when you consider these products are used on a daily basis by many parents."

The test results show the need for the proposed state Safer Alternatives Act, which would help businesses transition away from toxic chemicals in personal care products, says Saunders. It’s something that’s been done elsewhere around the world, she adds.

"The European Union banned 1,4-dioxane for personal care products and has recalled products it found to contain it. Formaldehyde is banned from personal care products in Japan and Sweden."

Both chemicals were found in Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Sesame Street Bubble Bath. The highest levels of formaldehyde were found in Baby Magic Baby Lotion. Initial company response is that the levels of chemicals found are low and have not been found to cause health problems at those levels. Saunders says even low levels of formaldehyde can cause skin rashes.

The full report, No More Toxic Tub: Getting Contaminants Out Of
Children’s Bath & Personal Care Products, is at

Deb Courson, Public News Service - MA