Chuck, I recently heard there are some toxic ingredients being used in staple baby shampoos. Heard of any? – “Protecting My Baby From Toxic Suds” in Arkansas
In October, a Forbes survey showed that Johnson & Johnson ranked as the most trusted brand in America.
One month later, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which is a coalition of more than 150 nonprofit organizations working to protect the health of consumers and workers by eliminating dangerous chemicals from cosmetics, released a public statement that declared: “More than two years after leading health and parents’ groups asked Johnson & Johnson … to reformulate its flagship baby shampoo to remove a chemical that releases formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, the company is still using the formaldehyde-releasing ingredient in Johnson’s Baby Shampoo in the United States, Canada and China, while making formaldehyde-free versions of the shampoo in several other countries.”
Only one day after that statement, Johnson & Johnson released a statement that declared the company was not producing new items with formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and, over the past few years, had reduced products with the chemical by 60 percent in the U.S. and 33 percent abroad.
The statement concluded, “We are completing this reformulation as quickly as we can safely and responsibly do so.”
Forbes explained that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added formaldehyde to its list of known human carcinogens in June 2011 and that the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that the presence of the ingredient in Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo, “even as a trace contaminant, is cause for concern.”
The ingredient under discussion is quaternium-15, a chemical preservative that kills bacteria by releasing formaldehyde. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics even cited a peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of the Dermatology Nurses’ Association that concluded that quaternium-15 is “the most sensitizing formaldehyde-releasing preservative and has been repeatedly shown to be a strong allergen that can cause contact dermatitis.”
A difficult fact to confront is that quaternium-15 is not the only toxic chemical or harmful pollutant being massaged into children’s scalps today. For example, many shampoo products and other medical treatments for mites and lice still contain lindane, which has been used in health care for more than 50 years and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Nevertheless, the National Institutes of Health reported that “it may cause serious side effects. … In rare cases, lindane has caused seizures and death.”
The Pesticide Action Network reported: “Lindane is an antiquated and toxic pesticide that was once used extensively worldwide. Despite a recent global ban on its agricultural use, the pesticide, a potent neurotoxin, is still used in shampoos and lotions in the U.S. to control headlice and scabies. California banned these pharmaceutical uses in 2001, and similar legislation is moving forward in Michigan.”
But with these global parasites building a resistance to the strongest of pesticides, don’t expect products containing lindane to vanish quickly from shelves, either.
As Johnson & Johnson is “safely and responsibly” phasing out the carcinogen in its products, I don’t need to caution you from playing Russian roulette with your children’s shampoos. If you want to ensure the purchase of carcinogen-free baby shampoo in the U.S., you could pay double the price for Johnson & Johnson’s Natural brand. But another alternative is simply to go to other, more natural brands.
Childbirth expert Samantha Van Vleet wrote an excellent article, “Three Great Natural and Toxin-Free Baby Shampoos,” for Yahoo Voices. After much study and even trial and error with her own children, she came up with these three shampoo recommendations:
- Earth Mama Angel Baby shampoo and body wash. “It’s one of the very few baby shampoos on the market that has been rated with a 0 for toxin content by the (Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetics database)!”
- California Baby calendula shampoo and body wash. “It is ranked on the cosmetic database as a 1.”
- Ecostore USA baby body wash. Van Vleet’s son, who has extremely sensitive skin, didn’t break out or have any signs of irritation while using this shampoo and body wash. It is ranked on the cosmetics database as a 1.
Bottom line: Whether consuming foods or using shampoos, read labels. And if you don’t know what the ingredients are, ask questions. Call product hotlines, and do your research. Your health and your children’s health are on the line.
For a more holistic medical approach, my wife, Gena, and I recommend Sierra Integrative Medical Center, in Reno, Nev. The people there are pioneers in integrative medicine. They blend the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative therapies.