by Abby Ellin, New York Times

May 27th, 2009

In March, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reported finding formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, a trace contaminant of some chemicals used in cosmetics, detergents and shampoos, in 55 children’s personal-care products. The chemicals are listed as probable human carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency. Seventeen of them — including Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo — contained both chemicals.

Last month, Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand announced legislation called the “Safe Baby Products Act,” asking for the Food and Drug Administration to investigate the chemicals in children’s toiletries. “As a mother, and as a parent, when I read the list of these products, I was highly concerned because many of the products on this list were literally in my bathroom,” she said in a conference call.

Trevor Butterworth, the editor of, had reservations about the report. “When you look at the extremely low levels the report found, it turns out that we are exposed to these chemicals every day in food, air and even in shower water, all without apparent ill effect,” he said in an e-mail message. “The research linking these chemicals to cancer is based on ingesting or inhaling (but not absorbing) huge quantities in industrial or laboratory settings — and even then, the links are weak.”

In a statement, Johnson & Johnson, which manufactures many of the items tested, said, “All our products meet or exceed the regulatory requirements in every country where they are sold.”