Children's bath products contain
formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC), an American campaign group, has found that 61% of the children's shampoos, lotions, soaps and other personal care products they tested were contaminated with formaldehyde and/or 1,4-dioxane both of which have been linked to cancer and skin allergies, and they were not listed on the product label because they are byproducts of manufacturing and not ingredients as such.

Of the 48 products tested at an independent laboratory in Petaluma, California 32 (67%) were found to contain 1,4-dioxane. Twenty-eight products were tested for 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde. Of these, 17 (61%) contained both chemicals and 23 (82%) contained formaldehyde. Formaldehyde builds up in product containers as the preservatives break down.

Manufacturers are not required by law to list contaminants on product labels, so consumers have no way of knowing if they are buying products containing toxic contaminants, said the CSC.

The chemical 1,4-dioxane is a probable carcinogen so its presence, even as a trace contaminant, is cause for concern. It is not an ingredient in these products, but a byproduct of the ethoxylation process that uses ethylene oxide to make the ingredients.

Although listed as a probable carcinogen the risk of formaldehyde causing cancer by being absorbed through the skin is not well understood although it is known to trigger skin reactions in adults and children who are sensitive to the chemical.

For the full report, including the list of products, many of which will be available in the UK

First Published in May 2009

More research on infants and children


Top of page