Report: <i>No More Toxic Tub: Getting Contaminants Out Of Children's Bath & Personal Care Products</i>

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Children's bath products are often marketed as safe and gentle. However, laboratory tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found these products are commonly contaminated with formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane - and, in many cases, both. These two chemicals, linked to cancer and skin allergies, are anything but safe and gentle and are completely unregulated in children's bath products.

This study is the first to document the widespread presence of both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane in bath products for children, including baby shampoos, bubble baths and baby lotions. Many products tested contained both chemicals.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1,4-dioxane is a probable carcinogen. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission states that "the presence of 1,4-dioxane, even as a trace contaminant, is cause for concern."3 1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of a chemical processing technique called ethoxylation in which cosmetic ingredients are processed with ethylene oxide. Manufacturers can easily remove the toxic byproduct, but are not required by law to do so.

What We Found
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned an independent laboratory to test 48 products for 1,4-dioxane; 28 of those products were also tested for formaldehyde. The lab found that:

  • 17 out of 28 products tested (61 percent) - contained both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane.
  • 23 out of 28 products (82 percent) - contained formaldehyde at levels ranging from 54 to 610 parts per million (ppm).
  • 32 out of 48 products (67 percent) - contained 1,4-dioxane at levels ranging from 0.27 to 35 ppm.

    Health Concerns
    While a single product might not be cause for concern, the reality is that babies may be exposed to several products at bath time, several times a week, in addition to other chemical exposures in the home and environment. Those small exposures add up and may contribute to later-life disease.

    Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known carcinogens; formaldehyde can also trigger skin rashes in some children. Unlike many other countries, the U.S. government does not limit formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, or most other hazardous substances in personal care products.

    Where They Come From
    The chemicals were not disclosed on product labels because they're contaminants, not ingredients, and therefore are exempt from labeling laws. Formaldehyde contaminates personal care products when common preservatives release formaldehyde over time in the container. Common ingredients likely to contaminate products with formaldehyde include quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea.

    What You Can Do
    Contrary to industry statements, there are no regulatory standards that limit formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane or most other toxic chemicals in personal care products sold in the United States. There are signs the U.S. is gearing to catch up, but for now it's up to consumers to consider carefully before they buy. Here's some suggestions for safeguarding your family's health:

    Simplify: Select products with fewer ingredients and no synthetic fragrance or dyes, and use fewer products overall.
    Choose safety: Search EWG's cosmetic safety database, Skin Deep, to learn more about the products you use and find safer alternatives. Also check out EWG's Safety Guide to Children's Personal Care Products.
    Read labels: Select products for baby and yourself that don't contain the ingredients listed above, which are commonly contaminated with formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane.
    Take action! Can't memorize these lists? Nobody can. If harmful contaminants and ingredients weren't allowed in products, you wouldn't have to. Tell Congress you want safe cosmetics for babies, adults and everyone in between.
    Spread the word: Send an e-card letting friends and family know about this report.

    Download the report at

    For more information visit

    About the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
    The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a national coalition of nonprofit women's, environmental, health,
    faith, consumer and worker organizations. Our collective goal is to protect the health of consumers and
    workers by requiring the personal care products industry to phase out the use of chemicals linked to
    cancer, birth defects and other serious health concerns, and replace them with safer alternatives.

  • Author: 
    Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
    Topic Areas: 
    Environmentally Preferable Products
    Target Audience: 
    Early Childhood
    Geographic Location: 
    All Minnesota
    Outside Minnesota
    32 pp.
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