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Babies, Bubble Bath, and Bad Science: Do Baby Bath Products Cause Cancer?

Posted Jun 11 2009 6:59pm
So now we're supposed to throw out baby bath products? If you believe what you've been reading about these chemical-laced shampoos and lotions you may hesitate the next time you plop the baby into the warm (but not too warm) water.

Maybe you read " Group Finds Carcinogen in Kids Bath Products" in USA Today. Here's the not-so-subtle opening:

Many children's bath products contain chemicals that may cause cancer and skin allergies, according to a report released Thursday by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Twenty-three of 28 products tested contained formaldehyde, the report says. Formaldehyde — considered a probable carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency, — is released as preservatives break down over time in a container.

Of course I'm going to tell you this information is suspect, misleading. The sciency-factoids come thanks to the people at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, hardly an objective group. But you can read the excellent review by Trevor Butterworth, senior fellow and editor at STATS.org. Butterworth reports the chemicals in bath products are indeed carcinogens, as are many common ingredients in heavy doses - and given the right exposure. For instance, gasoline, he notes, is also dangerous if you drink it. So there's the issue of exposure. Simply rubbing this stuff on does not pose a risk. And then there are the studies in which animals receive extremely high doses of the chemicals. As if we force-feed these potential toxins to our children. Toxicologists, by the way, are much more concerned about environmental sources of toxins, not so much the bath soap.

Fortunately the New York Times had the good sense get a comment from Butterworth i n their more balanced (than USA!) coverage of the issue " Cleaning Up Baby Products."

And this: even fruits and veggies naturally contain formaldehyde.

Who knew. Think of this the next time you put the apple in the lunch box.
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