Toxic Tub Time: Time to Wipe Away the Suds

Originally published on the Care2 website.

I found out this week that a friend is expecting her first child. Kay knows that I’m an enthusiastic “greenie,” and in the last year she’s asked me at various times about what kind of nail products I’d recommend, what kind of deodorant, what kind of shampoo. I am not shy about these opportunities and I always provide the website address for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the organization I counted on when I greened my own makeup bag a few years ago. When Kay complimented me on a fragrance recently, I revealed it was from a perfumer who uses organic essential oils and who advocates against the use of anything artificial and then I went on to tell her about how most commercial fragrances are filled with harmful or potentially harmful ingredients. I will delicately offer unsolicited advice to friends about beauty products on occasion, being careful to not offend choices they’ve made. But when a friend opens the door for me by asking, I take the podium.

Kay’s recent interest in making better personal care choices is particularly encouraging because I now consider the door wide open for me to offer oodles and oodles of advice on the baby products she should choose in the months ahead. Since I’ve greened my life, I’ve had several friends and family members welcome bundles of joy—and I am proud to be the “green girl” at baby showers, offering cute organic cotton onesies and bath products that are gentle and made entirely of pure and truly natural ingredients. I stress the “truly natural” part because the “natural” label has been abused and so many people are unaware of the hidden danger in the products that line the shelves.

Tell someone that lead can still be found in some commercial brands of lipstick and they might be surprised but not necessarily shocked. But toxins in baby products? It’s hard to accept. And, let’s face it, it’s sickening. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics filed a report this week, “No More Toxic Tub: Getting Contaminants Out of Children’s Bath and Personal Care Products,” on what is found in a sampling of dozens of baby products, including bubble bath and baby lotion. They sent the products to be independently tested and found traces of the 1, 4-dioxane and formaldehyde (chemicals the EPA lists as probable carcinogens).

How can it be that Sesame Street Bubble Bath and Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea baby wash contain these toxins? And what about Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo? The cosmetics industry is largely self-regulated and neither of these chemicals are listed on the labels—but they showed up in testing of the products. Now I see “no more tears” on a bottle of kiddie shampoo and think no—no more toxins. Passing off these products as natural and safe is shameful, especially since safer ingredients are readily available for use in these products. You know how soft a baby’s skin is—and how delicate and vulnerable. Splashing around the tubs with a rubber ducky—and harmful chemicals?

Naysayers argue that the level of toxicity is negligible, but just think about the accumulative effect of exposure to numerous “negligible” levels from various sources (the water, the air). We can’t get hysterical about the dangers but we can be aware and take action. At this point, it’s up to the consumer to be educated and make the right choices. Thankfully, alternatives are out there and you can support the companies making the safer products by spending your dollars on their goods (while also sending a message to the companies still peddling poison).

Since I’ve become involved in the green world, the best stories I’ve heard are from new moms who have made deliberate steps to green their lives, who say they discovered that the baby products they were using were not as safe or environmentally friendly as they had been lead to believe—or, expectant moms like Kay, who are beginning to think twice about the products that they use daily. They begin by making safer choices for the sake of their babies and then they take a hard look at the products they’re using on their own bodies and then at the products they’re using to clean their homes, and so on. There’s power in action and also in making your voice heard; you can also take action by contacting your legislators and asking them to support regulations on cosmetics and to help regulate the industry.

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