Are we bathing our babies in carcinogens?

Kids in the 21st century - especially babies - face a set of challenges that are potentially just as deadly as the sickness that threatened the youth of earlier centuries.

Unfortunately, with progress comes complications, and today's children are exposed to many toxins that earlier generations never came in contact with. Here's a prime example: According to a study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC), there are toxic chemicals in some of the most recognized and used brand-name baby products - including lotions and shampoos.

The CSC tests found that products like the ever-popular Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo contained chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency has marked as probable carcinogens.

Of the 48 baby products the CSC found that 32 of them (66 percent) contained trace levels of 1,4-dioxane, and 23 of them (47 percent) had levels of formaldehyde. Seventeen of the products (35 percent) actually had detectable levels of BOTH of these chemicals.

The companies aren't putting those chemicals into the products intentionally. Instead, they're byproducts of the manufacturing process. I don't know about you, but I don't care HOW they got there. The point is that there are detectable amounts of these potential carcinogens in products many parents are exposing their children to on a daily basis.

But as you might expect, the companies are protesting that they've done nothing wrong. Johnson & Johnson released a statement saying, "We are disappointed that the CSC has inaccurately characterized the safety of our products ... and unnecessarily alarmed parents." I think what they really meant is that the CSC unnecessarily alarmed their paying customers.

Naturally, J & J is hiding behind FDA "standards," saying that the federal agency considers "these trace levels safe, and all our products meet or exceed the regulatory requirements in every country where they are sold."

Maybe so, but as you know, the just because the FDA thinks something is safe doesn't mean it is. As I've pointed out to you time and again, the FDA's "standards" are often based on political expediency rather than good science.

Case in point: a certain level of 1,4-dioxane is A-OK with the FDA, but it's use as an ingredient in personal care products has been BANNED OUTRIGHT in Europe. The FDA's stance on 1,4-dioxane seems odd to me because back in 1982, an FDA-sponsored study showed that the substance can actually penetrate the skin when it's used in lotion.

The CSC admits that their study found very low levers of the two carcinogens in the products studied, but that doesn't mean it's safe.

"The problem is, we're finding a little bit of carcinogen in many products," Malkin said. "Many of these products are used every day, so we've got repeated and frequent exposure to these low levels of chemicals. They're not the safest and purest products, and parents ought to know that."