A friend of mine from college is currently studying to be a funeral director. When she saw my website, she got in touch with me about something she had recently learned in school: “I was just reading something about Quaternium-15, which is a type of ammonium salt that is used in cosmetic products as a preservative. Basically, it’s a component of formaldehyde, which is a toxic carcinogen used in embalming. Apparently it exists in a small quantity in most of Johnson & Johnson’s baby products.” If formaldehyde is a main ingredient of the embalming fluid that is used to preserve dead bodies, why is it used in any type of skin care product? It’s cheap and can make a product last indefinitely (this is my educated guess at least). I was surprised to see that after all these years of using this known toxic substance, Johnson and Johnson’s inclusion of it in its baby products has finally made the news.
Johnson and Johnson is also using another toxic chemical, Dioxane, which “is a petroleum-derived carcinogenic compound that is used intentionally in dry cleaning solvents, lacquers and automotive coolant… Dioxane is a known animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen as well as a skin and lung irritant. It is strongly suspected to be toxic to the kidneys and nervous system. It also appears on California’s Proposition 65 list of substances known to cause cancer or birth defects” (The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics).
What’s interesting to note is that Johnson and Johnson has stated that “it is reducing or gradually phasing out the chemicals,” basically remaining non committal on eliminating it all together. According to USA Today, “Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are safe and approved by regulators in the U.S. and other countries.” Yet, according to OSHA, formaldehyde is a respiratory irritant. What’s frightening is that these chemicals, quite like TBHQ, artificial food dyes, tobacco, and prescription medications approved by and then removed by the FDA, are actually sometimes labeled as safe, yet have been proven to be dangerous.
So What is Safe to Use?
Though organic products can sometimes be more expensive, it’s because the companies producing them aren’t taking shortcuts or using toxic chemicals to save on costs. You often pay for what you get. If you have never heard of or can’t pronounce an ingredient on a product you are considering, you should think twice and research the ingredient in question before buying it. You should also remember that just because something is labeled as organic doesn’t mean it totally is, so look for products that say they are 100% organic. I like the Little Twig products, however, I know there are a lot of truly great organic baby products out there. If you would like product names and feedback, you can learn from and share on the thread started on the Raising Natural Kids facebook page!
Also, since both Dioxane and Quaternium-15 can be found in makeup and hair products, including hair dyes and Brazillian hair straightening products, make sure to check the products you are using, if not for your sake, for the sake of your children who are rubbing against your cheek for a kiss, or are breathing next to your hair when hugging! You can check your product at: EWG’s Skin Deep.
USA Today on Johnson and Johnson: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2011-11-01/baby-shampoo-protest/51024606/1
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (on Dioxane): http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=953&tid=199#bookmark06
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: http://www.safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=282
OSHA on formaldehyde: http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/formaldehyde-factsheet.pdf