June 10, 2009

Toxins in Shampoo?

Baby not-so-magic?
A few weeks ago, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics folks asked Johnson & Johnson to remove traces of two potentially harmful chemicals from baby shampoos and other children's bath products and switch to safer alternatives. Japan already requires J&J to sell products free of formaldehyde.

FDA asleep at the wheel? No, the FDA does not review—nor does it have the authority to require pre-market safety assessment as it does with drugs. So cosmetics are among the least-regulated products on the market. 89 percent of all ingredients in cosmetics have not been evaluated for safety by any publicly accountable institution. The FDA website states: “FDA's legal authority over cosmetics is different from other products regulated by the agency .... Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives.”

In the absence of federal oversight, a few states have taken steps to ensure that consumers have access to safer products and more information about the products they buy. In 2008, Washington State adopted legislation that bans phthalates from personal care products marketed to or used by kids. In 2005, California became the first state to pass state legislation governing the safety and reporting of cosmetic ingredients by requiring manufacturers to disclose to the state any product ingredient that is on state or federal lists of chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects.

In March, the Campaign’s report showed that 82 percent of baby shampoos and other bath products tested had traces of formaldehyde and 67 percent of those tested had 1,4 dioxane. You’ll be surprised to see these test results.