Monday, March 16, 2009

Chemicals in Baby Products

Every week our magazine, Washington FAMILY Magazine has a regular segment on the local CBS station in partnership with their mom's web site, This morning on WUSA9 News Now we discussed baby products that contain formaldehyde and dioxane. Both chemicals were found to cause cancer in animals and the EPA calls them 'probable human carcinogens.

How did these chemicals come to be found in baby products, are they harmful and what do we need to look out for?

Formaldehyde is created when other chemicals, preservatives in the product break down over time, while 1,4-dioxane is formed when foaming agents are combined with ethylene oxide or similar petrochemicals.

The trace levels found by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics can result from processes that make US products gentle for babies and safe from bacteria growth.

However both of those chemicals were found to cause cancer in animals and the EPA calls them 'probable human carcinogens.

The Personal Care Products Council which used to be the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, says “Allegations made that commonly used baby products are somehow contaminated with harmful levels of carcinogenic chemicals are patently false and a shameful and cynical attempt by an activist group to incite and prey upon parental worries and concerns in order to push a political, legislative and legal agenda.”

What should parents think, are they harmful?

The FDA does not have a standard for these specific ingredients. They only say companies need to follow the industry standard.

Way back in 1982 the FDA did conduct a study that showed that 1,4-dioxane could penetrate human skin when used in lotion.

CSC found one product, Baby Magic “Soft Baby Scent” Lotion contained high levels of formaldehyde. After analyzing two samples of the products, the researchers found they contained 570 and 610 parts per million (ppm) of the chemical.

In Europe, products containing above 500 ppm would require a warning label.

The European Union has banned 1,4-dioxane as an ingredient in personal care products, but the Food and Drug Administration has not established a safe limit for the chemical in shampoo, lotion and other toiletries. It maintains that the trace amounts found in those products are not harmful.

What should parents do?

The buzz on DC.MomsLikeMe has been to avoid using products that you believe contain these ingredients. My own daughter has an allergic reaction to sulfate and she has stopped using anything with Sulfate listed in the ingredients. Most moms on MomsLike Me agree. Although the amounts may not be enough to cause any concern, why take that chance? If you have a choice, choose the safe choice.

That can be difficult because it may be impossible remember all of the ingredients to watch for. We will have the list inside the Washington FAMILY Magazine Group on MLM as well as some links to the reports.

Ingredients to Avoid –

DMDM Hydantoin
Imidazolidnyl urea
Diazolidinyl urea
Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate

Peg-100 steraate
Sodium laureth

Links about these issues –

As a parent you want what is best for your baby. Moms certainly never want to do anything that could potentially cause harm to our children in the future. On the other hand, is this inflated to create a political atmosphere of fear? I don’t know. I think I would stay on the side of caution and try to avoid these ingredients.

I think the baby product industry has a big PR mess to worry about and some of them might need to change the formula for their products or maybe launch a new line of healthy blends. Expiration dates might help so fewer preservatives would be needed. I would rather worry about a product expiring rather than causing cancer.

Brenda Hyde
Publisher, Washington FAMILY Magazine
.............. where parents come first!


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Have you heard about all the harmful chemicals in everyday baby products?
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