baby haters – dioxane, formaldehyde and other chemical-laced baby products

You’ve heard by now that Johnson & Johnson is among the many companies that currently sell baby (and adult) products that include toxins such as formaldehyde and other carcinogenic ingredients. For example, the iconic Johnson’s Baby Shampoo contains dioxane and a substance called quaternium-15 that releases formaldehyde.

Dioxane is 1,4-dioxane is a petroleum-derived carcinogenic compound that is used intentionally in dry cleaning solvents, lacquers and automotive coolant. 1,4-dioxane also shows up in personal care products because it is the byproduct of some chemical ingredient manufacturing processes, including the process by which sodium lauryl sulfate becomes sodium laureth sulfate. The latter SLS is used in products that make suds, like shampoo, bubble bath and body wash. Remember to check your labels! See the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics database for more here.

Quaternium-15 releases formaldehyde into cosmetics products. Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The National Cancer Institute, the World Health Organization and the National Toxicology Program have all identified a possible link between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia. See The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics database, Baby’s Tub is Still Toxic.

The really galling part is that some countries have banned the use of 1, dioxin so J&J actually makes two different versions of its products since the EU has banned chemicals in the U.S. version.

Read this important report HERE, the first to document the widespread contamination of children’s products with formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane.

 For our 4 month old’s tub, we like Everyday Shea’s shampoo and body wash. It was (very surprisingly) the only acceptable, nontoxic shampoo for babies that I found at Whole Foods with the exception of good old Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby Mild Soap, which you can use for just about anything. We use Dr. Bronner’s to clean bottles and bring it in bar or liquid form when we travel. It’s great for handwashing baby clothes too.

There are so many companies marketing baby products that contain toxic chemicals, it’s impossible to list them all. Carefully read labels and watch out for these top offenders (regretfully these are just the tip of the iceberg):

Click on the links below for more detail on why these are harmful from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.



  Synthetic Musks


  Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives










  Lead and Other Heavy Metals




Please don’t say the “V” word … alternatives to vaseline

If I had a nickle for every pediatrician, L&D nurse, or mom friend that recommended petroleum jelly for one thing or another, I’d be a rich woman. Petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline) comes from oil (one of those fossil fuel things). As Melissa Breyer, editor of Healthy Living, recounts, it was discovered by a chemist that noticed the residue left on oil drilling rigs. This goop, called “rod wax,” he then distilled to petrolatum. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are common contaminents in petrolatum and are linked to cancer by many sources, including the EPA. In addition, different (and unregulated) manufacturing processes render what consumers know as petroleum jelly harmful in myriad ways. Fragrance, artificial color, preservatives, parabens and other chemicals are added to Vaseline/petroleum jelly to affect consistency, skin absorbtion, smell and shelf-life. 

“But my jar just says 100% ‘petroleum jelly’.”

That’s right, you won’t find these red flag ingredients on the package. Thanks to the lack of regulation of cosmetics and products in the US, they are not required to list all ingredients. See the actual contents of standard Vaseline (Unilever) here, thanks to EWG Skin Deep testing.  These additives have been shown to cause cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), biochemical and cellular level changes, allergies and other skin irritations.

Under the circumstances, it’s quite disturbing that Tyra Banks started a “Vaseline Frenzy” when she told the world it was her #1 beauty secret and that teens are being advised that Vaseline is their best friend. Add this to the 16 (on average) other toxic beauty and skin products people use on a daily basis and it’s not hard to see why we have sky rocketing infertility, cancer, and allergy rates, in additional to a significant increase in many behavioral disorders. (That’s another topic entirely but check out this simple list of toxins affecting learning and behavior in children from the Healthy Children Project.)

So please, do not slather this on your baby’s butt to prevent diaper rash (this doesn’t work anyway because you’re most likely trapping moisture in if you just used a wipe, which causes … wait for it … diaper rash). Note that popular products like Desitin contain petrolatum, in addition to sodium borate and methlyparaben (the worst paraben).

Don’t use petroleum jelly on yourself for that matter.

For dry skin or lips, try organic Badger Baby Balm. I linked around and Avalon Organics Un-Petroleum Multi-Purpose Jelly received good reviews and even recommendations for being nontoxic. Unfortunately it does contain tocopheryl acetate, a chemical compound that consists of acetic acid and tocopherol (vitamin E). The chemical concerns surrounding tocopheryl acetate, although moderate, include cancer (one or more animal studies showed tumor formation at high doses), environmental and other issues. For details, see EWG’s Skin Deep database.

Organic olive oil works well too (even on cradle cap). We also like Burt’s Bees Nourishing Baby Oil and, for lips, Burt’s Bees Wax Lip Balm. Everyday Shea’s Baby Lotion looks promising (we use their Baby Shampoo and Body Wash). If you must use a cream for each diaper change, we’ve noted before Burt’s Bees great diaper ointment. If you are treating a rash or irritation, use a zinc oxide cream that doesn’t have added chemicals. Bourdreaux’s Diaper Rash Ointment in Natural has the highest percentage of zinc that we’ve found and worked like a charm on my 4 month old.

 Happy lubing.