What harmful ingredients in baby shampoos should I watch out for?

dangerous ingredients used in baby shampoo

There probably isn’t one sure fire path to happiness. There are conceivably as many routes to a fulfilling life as there are people (and chocolates?). A guaranteed avenue to unhappiness does exist however. It involves spending one’s time reading articles on the internet about the dangers that certain products pose for your baby. Yes, pretty much exactly what you’re doing right now. You should stop — right after this article, that is. Nowadays there are so many unaccountable bloggers who claim particular ingredients will cause you to get diseases, grow horns or worse, become a Justin Bieber fan.

These articles are super conspiratorial and scary. But what is even scarier is when the therein contained allegations are true. When the mania is justified.

The most chilling such case took place in the United States in the early part of the decade. A woman named Jacqueline Fox used talcum-based baby powder products for an extended period of time. She would apply the powders to her most sensitive body parts, unaware that they would play a large role in causing the ovarian cancer that would ultimately claim her life.

A lawsuit was filed against the manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, on the belief that the company knew about the link to cancer and did not warn customers. Johnson & Johnson lost. In 2014 a Missouri jury ordered the conglomerate to pay Fox’s family 75 million USD in damages.

This case is shocking and disturbing because it rattles the tacit confidence we all have: That companies wouldn’t really allow harmful products to get onto the market, right? For the most part that sentiment is backed up by reality, but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes big companies behave like belligerent teenagers, i.e. they will try get away with as much bad behaviour as they can.

Ingredients to put on your watch-list

The problematic chemicals in the Johnson & Johnson products were called formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane. They could be found in numerous leading baby shampoos and bath products. Formaldehyde has been identified as a carcinogen (cancer causing agent). It is released over time by preservatives like quaternium-15.

It must be noted that formaldehyde occurs naturally in many foods. That’s why Johnson & Johnson could argue that consumers are exposed to more if it in an apple than they would be through using the company’s powders. An external analysis conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in 2009 found that the 1,4 dioxane levels were within safe levels. But the Environmental Working Group (a body in the United States that evaluates the risk of various chemicals) found that the long term dangers are still not clear.

Though Johnson & Johnson has since removed formaldehyde from its products, as have many other manufacturers, there are still a few ingredients to keep an eye out for that may release formaldehyde.

These include:

● Quaternium-15
● DMDM hydantoin
● Imidazolidinyl urea
● Diazolidinyl urea

Avoiding 1,4 dioxane will require you to keep clear of substances that can release it as a byproduct as well. Among those are:

● PEG-100 stearate
● Sodium laureth sulfate
● Sodium myreth sulfate
● Polyethylene
● Ceteareth-20

What else should you watch out for?

According to researcher and New York Times best-selling author Joseph Mercola, the following ingredients should get a wide berth as well:

● Any chemical that includes some form of “xynol, ceteareth and oleth” in its name.
● Diethanolamine or DEA. The substance is said to block the absorption of choline, which is necessary for healthy brain development.
● Propylene Glycol. Dr Mercola points out that propylene glycol has been known to lead to liver abnormalities and kidney damage.

Bottom line

No-one wants to spend their lives reading the backs of labels to find some unpronounceable chemical that may be harmful to one’s baby. A simpler and safer way to live is to opt for plant-based products. It’s probably also much better for your general sense of life happiness.