Just how risky is it to use a baby shampoo that contains 200 times the OSHA safe exposure limit of formaldehyde on your child? Read this to find out.
Keywords: jnj, johnson and johnson, johnson & johnson, J&J, toxic, carcinogen, shampoo, baby
Date Created/Edited: March 23, 1012
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After decades of known health risks from exposure to formaldehyde, it was finally added to the EPA list of known carcinogens in the 12th Report on Carcinogens, published by the National Toxicology Program in June of 2011. It was added because it was finally accepted that formaldehyde increases the risk of leukemia, nasal cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer. However, formaldehyde remains in numerous consumer goods, including baby shampoo at rates hundreds of times higher than the threshold set by the EPA to be below the level for increased risk of developing cancer.
TIME Healthland reports: "It's also an extremely nasty substance that can cause irritation in the eyes and breathing problems in human beings at elevated levels (elevated being more than 0.1 parts per million)." Yet formaldehyde levels in Johnson's baby shampoo was found at 210 parts per million as reported by RSC, Advancing the Chemical Industry.
Although formaldehyde has finally been declared a carcinogen, no limitations on its inclusion in consumer goods, from building materials to body care, have been set by government agencies. It is up to consumers to choose products without formaldehyde, even though it is not on product labels or required on literature about the products that continue to include this known carcinogen.
The most talked about exposure to formaldehyde at the current time is from hair straightening products such as Brazillian Blowout, cosmetics such as Johnson & Johnson, and other, baby shampoos and consumer soap products. It is created by the breakdown of quaternium-15, which is used as a preservative. According to OSHA, the 15 minute, short-term, limit for exposure in the workplace for an average-sized adult is 2 parts per million (PPM) to prevent exposure from reaching the limit known to increase the risk of adverse health effects. In addition, health effects caused by formaldehyde are supposed to be listed on the label of the product if airborne concentrations can reach or exceed 0.1 ppm.
Testing of Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo revealed that the formaldehyde concentration in the samples tested were as high as 210 ppm. Some of the products tested had levels of formaldehyde double what was found in Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo. A normal, thinking, rational mind can comprehend that the level of 210 or more ppm dumped on a baby or used to wash a child will far exceed the safety standard set by OSHA of 2 ppm for an adult, as well as requiring the adverse health effects on the label because it is quite likely that the airborne concentration will reach the 0.1 ppm threshold. This is simply common sense. However, cosmetics are not regulated and do not require the same safety warning information as products covered by OSHA which require proper labeling for products used in a work environment that contain this high of a level of formaldehyde.
It is already clear that formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, as it is classified as such by the National Toxicology Program. Further research reveals a number of other health effects related to high formaldehyde exposures. It is interesting that the corresponding health conditions associated with formaldehyde exposure are dramatically on the rise in our children, such as cancers, leukemia and other chronic medical conditions such as asthma, allergies and eczema.
OSHA has established that exposure levels above 2 ppm increase the risk of developing cancers caused by excessive formaldehyde. However, other adverse reactions occur at levels less than 1 ppm. These include wheezing, watery eyes, coughing, nausea, skin irritation and burning of the eyes, nose and throat.
Since wheezing was mentioned by the National Cancer Institute, and asthma rates have dramatically increased during the same time frame as formaldehyde being used in building materials and consumer goods such as cosmetics (soaps, shampoos, lotions, creams) , I decided to check further into this connection on the National Library of Medicine. According to numerous studies, there is definitely a correlation between formaldehyde exposure and the risk of developing asthma and lower respiratory infections in children. One of the studies even went so far as to state that formaldehyde exposure 'induces' asthma - meaning that it causes asthma. In addition to phthalates, which are synthetic fragrances known to increase the risk of developing asthma, it is not a wonder that the rate of asthma has skyrocketed over the past four decades.
Skin irritation was another risk associated with formaldehyde exposure that was mentioned by the National Cancer Institute document. Again, numerous studies show that eczema and dermatitis are definitely increased with formaldehyde exposure. Eczema and asthma are often presented together, most likely due to a higher concentration of exposure to formaldehyde in the home.
WalMart decided not to get sued over a body care product again so they banned certain chemicals from products they carry in their stores. Formaldehyde was among those chemicals. After 20 years of advocacy, formaldehyde releasing chemicals are no longer used in products carried by WalMart. Finally!
1. United States Department of Health and Human Services (2011, June). 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC) United States National Toxicology Program. Retrieved from http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/?objectid=03C9AF75-E1BF-FF40-DBA9EC0928DF8B15
2. Bryan Walsh (2011, June 11). Why the Federal Government Finally Acted on Chemical Safety Time Healthland. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2011/06/11/why-the-federal-government-finally-acted-on-chemical-safety/
3. Hepeng Jia/Beijing, China (2009, August). Johnson & Johnson involved in chemical ingredient litigation Royal Society of Chemistry. Retrieved from http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/Issues/2009/August/JohnsonJohnsonInvolvedInChemicalIngredientLitigation.asp
4. Frank Meilinger (2011, September 22). Letter to Mr. Michael Brady CEO, GIB LLC dba Brazilian Blowout United States Department of Labor. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/formaldehyde/brazilian_blowout_letter.html
5. Frank Meilinger (2011, June 10). Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk National Cancer Institute. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/formaldehyde