ToxicFree Foundation / Articles

My Toxic Baby

How many of us love the way that our babies smell right after a bath?  I know that I certainly do!  Now how many of us would bathe our babies in formaldehyde?  I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet to answer,  none of us would.  At least we wouldn’t knowingly do something that could potentially increase our children’s likelihood of suffering from cancer, respiratory distress, skin irritation and other health concerns.  I have a real problem with the FDA and Johnson & Johnson for the use of known carcinogens in their Baby Shampoo and its Head to Toe Baby Wash.  Although representatives from  Johnson & Johnson have said that they are reducing or gradually phasing out the chemicals in its formulas used in the U.S.,  it has already done so in (I) at least eight other countries from the U.K. and Denmark to Japan and South Africa.  I believe that they have been able to get away with this for so long because the FDA is a broken and corrupt organization.  If the non-cancer causing formulas used by J&J in the U.K. and other countries are good enough for their children, why are our children here in the U.S., Canada, China, Indonesia and Australia still being subjected?  Johnson & Johnson has an excellent marketing team; we’ve all seen their commercials making you feel that in order to give your baby the best care and most gentle bath you must use their products.  When new parents are sent home from the hospital, they are given Johnson & Johnson samples and coupons, so it must be good stuff, right?  Heck, Johnson & Johnson even agreed to (II) change their packaging of plastic bottles due to harmful chemicals used in the manufacturing process, switching their packaging of liquids to safe non-polycarbonate containers. Maybe they thought they could pacify the activist groups and keep the general public in the dark about the dangers still present in the actual product contained in the “now safe” packaging.

Johnson & Johnson has been under the microscope for years in regards to the chemicals used in its products.  Most recently, as reported in the news, Johnson & Johnson has been under fire by an international coalition of health and environmental groups, calling for a boycott.  The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has been trying for more than two years to get Johnson & Johnson to remove the trace amounts of the substances used in its baby products.  (III) In response, Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are safe and approved by regulators in the U.S. and other countries, but that they are gradually phasing them out of its baby products.  It said they are also reformulating baby products to reduce the level of dioxane below detectable levels.  But it did not say whether it would respond to or meet the campaigns full demands.  I suppose that’s a step in the right direction.

The chemicals being used are quaternium-15 which is a chemical preservative that kills bacteria by releasing formaldehyde.  (IV) Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (IV.a) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. (IV.b, IV.c, IV.d) The National Cancer Institute, the World Health Organization and the National Toxicology Program have all identified a possible link between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia.

(IV.e)  Formaldehyde and quaternium-15 are also potent allergens that can trigger rashes and other skin inflammation problems. (IV.f) The North American Contact Dermatitis Group considers quaternium-15 to be among the most clinically significant contact allergens in children.  Quaternium-15 is a quaternary ammonium salt used as a preservative in many cosmetics and industrial substances.  (V) Many individuals with an allergy to quaternium-15 are also allergic to formaldehyde.  (V.a) Allergic sensitivity to quaternium-15 can be detected using a patch test.  (V.b) It is the single most often cause of allergic contact dermatitis of the hands (16.5% in 959 cases).

The second chemical, 1,4-dioxane, is considered a likely carcinogen.  It is a byproduct of a process for making chemicals more soluble and gentler on the skin.  (VI) 1,4-dioxane appears in products as a result of a process called ethoxylation in which relatively harsh low-sudsing ingredients are combined with ethyl oxide, a known human carcinogen, in order to produce softer detergents that produce more suds.  In this process, the ethylene oxide undergoes a slight modification and reappears in the product disguised as diethylene oxide, also known as 1,4-dioxane or simply dioxane.  For many years, dioxane contamination was routinely overlooked as a serious concern by manufacturers and even our federal watchdog agencies.  But recently, as a result of public pressure stemming from the OCA-Green Patriot Working Group studies, consumers have begun pressuring manufacturers to produce cleaner products. 

Health concerns in regards to dioxane are mounting.  Not only is it a probable human carcinogen, it has been listed as an animal carcinogen as well.  (VI.a) Dioxane is considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be an emerging threat to water supplies across the country.  Towns as diverse as Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Newport Beach, California, have all found their water supply fouled by this chemical.  (VII) According to sources obtained by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, research shows that 1,4-dioxane readily penetrates the skin.  It is included on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known or suspected by the state to cause cancer or birth defects.  The California Environmental Protection Agency also lists, 1,4-dioxane as a suspected kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant.

It is highly unlikely that any one product containing 1,4-dioxane will cause harm on its own.  However, repeated exposures from many different products add up.  The same baby could be exposed to 1,4-dioxane from baby shampoo, bath bubbles and body wash in a single bath, as well as from other contaminated personal care products today, tomorrow and the next day.  Repeated exposures to a single carcinogen, synergistic effects from exposures to multiple carcinogenic and mutagenic ingredients, and concerns about exposures at key points in development (such as pregnancy, infancy and puberty) are cause for concern even though little risk is evident from a single small exposure.

The time of slowly poisoning ourselves and our children has to come to an end.  I know that I personally cannot and will not live in the dark any longer, telling myself that it can’t and won’t happen to me or my family.  I’ve already seen firsthand the effects of using these products on my own child.  She began developing “breast buds” before the age of one year.  Our very aware, caring and brilliant pediatrician informed us of the effects of some of the above mentioned baby products and encouraged us to discontinue their use.  Naturally we were skeptical, as we were using the most trusted brand on the market.  We did discontinue the use of the J&J products and within three weeks our daughter’s chest looked once again like a normal baby’s chest should.

By: Rheanne Velie