Monday, March 30, 2009

Bubble Baths We Can Feel Good About

JessTrev rants about chemicals in personal care products and finds, to her delight, that parents around the country are mobilizing around this very issue. This is a submission for the Green Moms Carnival.

I'm a busy parent. So is every other mom and dad I know. That's why it's frustrating to me that, when I am ripping through the aisles trying to check domestic needs off the list, I have to whip out my appendix of problem ingredients from the Green Beauty Guide to figure out if my kids' bubble bath is going to give them cancer down the road. Or disrupt their hormones, give them early puberty or man-boobs.

I've said it before, I just want my life to be simpler and easier. The details of that simple living are up to me, right? I might want to make my own fizzy bath hearts. I might want to buy a product that scores low on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database from a local health food store, and by spending a little bit more, support a company that is providing products not only safer for my kids but for wildlife and the environment, to boot.

Either way, though, that sounds a bit high maintenance. Which may just be my thing. Sometimes I do want to make whole grain bread from scratch with yeast I've captured out of the thin air. Sometimes, though, I just want the products widely available in our stores to have a modicum of safety. I don't think it should have to be a choice between making your own, paying through the nose, or taking your children's health into your hands to get a bargain.

That's why I'm so thrilled to hear of numerous different efforts afoot to make our personal care products safer. Check these out!

The Kid Safe Chemicals Act is gaining traction (support it now!) in Congress to ensure that all chemicals in kids products need to be proven safe before they're used (sadly, not the case today).

On April 18, the Girlcott will take place in San Francisco...
“Boycotts mean saying no. Girlcotts mean saying yes.

Women are the main purchasers of products and take responsibility for what goes into the home.

We can organize to change market forces by saying we don't want cancer-causing products and we do want safer products.

When enough women get together, we can make things happen."

Dr. Devra Davis as reported by Stacy Malkan,
author of Not Just a Pretty Face

Getting chills yet? I am! This rocks.

On the other end of the spectrum, the more-business-as-usual end of things, Johnson and Johnson's got a huge youtube contest up right now (Big Bubblin Stars) -- mommy bloggers are queuing up with videos of their babies in J&J bubble bath to get a shot at a $10K prize. The issue? J&J products were recently cited in a safety report (No More Toxic Tub, released by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics) as having formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane. Why there's formaldehyde in kids' products, I surely do not know. Embalm some other (preferably dead) human, please. The 1,4 dioxane's there as a result of the ethyoxylation process, which makes the baby bath less harsh (hmm -- harsh or deadly? haaaarsh? or deadly?) While the levels may have been low, apparently there's an easy process the company can take called "vacuum stripping" to make sure there's no 1,4 dioxane at all. Sign my bubbles up for stripping! Cause I'd rather my kids skipped that particular froth.

Which is my exact point. Johnson and Johnson, if you are listening? I'd love it if you would remove known carcinogens from my baby's bath products. While you're at it, could you streamline the packaging and use recycled content? Get rid of the fragrances and phthalates, and you'll have cornered my personal market. I don't need to spend six times as much on every product. It's not some twisted masochism that thinks I get a badge of honor for having expensive products. (Believe you me, I've been washing my own hair in baking soda and vinegar. But the vinegar stings my eyes! I can't dump it on my kid's head.)

I'd love it if every time I got my Sunday circular, there were coupons I could actually use. I am sick of walking into a mainstream grocery store and seeing waves of artificial products -- strange ingredients posing as food, and potential carcinogens trying to muscle their way into my medicine cabinet.

I think the Kid Safe Chemical Act is a great governmental step. But I think companies -- like they did with BPA in response to consumer concern -- can lead the way. You want me to part with my hard earned dollars instead of just washing my face with honey? Give me products that are safe and show some concern for human and environmental health. That's an economy I want to help build.


Jenn said...

You hit the nail on the head!!! Great post!

Mindful Momma said...

Very well put Jess. I too love to make my own products when I have the time, but more often than not, I don't have the time.
And think of all the people who aren't reading this blog who don't have a clue about toxins in their baby's bubble bath. That's downright scary.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Amen, amen, and amen! You said it so well that I can stop writing about this subject now and just direct people to your post from now on. :)

Janelle Sorensen said...

The Kid-Safe Chemicals Act could really transform things for the better (and give us all more time relaxing and playing instead of researching which products are safe for our kids).

Call your elected reps in congress today! (Don't know who they are or have their number on speed dial? Look them up at

Thanks Jess!

Green Bean said...

Fantastic post. Girl power!

Lisa at EWG said...

Say it, Jess! I couldn't agree more re why we need Kid-Safe, and I, too, am feeling the movement around this. The people are talking, loud enough to be heard, I think.

Supporters of Kid-Safe can also sign EWG's Facebook petition for Congress, making clear that we don't think industrial pollution has to start in the womb.

And as I can see here, a lot of folks are working *hard* on their own time to turn this situation around.

Power to the people :-)

Lisa at EWG said...

And that FB petition is right here:

Anonymous said...

I'm still looking for a totally safe, gluten free shampoo/conditioner/bubble product for my five year old after a year of searching. When will the world wake up?

Stephanie of Sesen

Formaldehyde Council said...

There are a number of folks who are calling the conclusion of this report into question. Click here and here to read more about the science without the hysteria.

It should also be noted that Johnson and Johnson is standing behind their product, while the FDA has also issued a statement backing its safety.

The facts that your report obscures are simple: the trace amounts of these chemicals aren't harmful, and their presence helps prevent these products from spoiling.

Alline said...

Great post! I have no desire to slam J&J (well, maybe just a little; their "green" claim is taking it just a little too far), just want transparency in what I am slathering on those I love.

Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama said...

To the Formaldehyde Council commenter - nothing in the post smacks of hysteria. In fact, the post recognizes that the presence of 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde in baby bath products may or may not be an issue. But does point out that they are both known carcinogens and, at least for 1,4-dioxane, can be removed for pennies. Seems like an easy choice for a company that ADVERTISES itself as one of the most enviromentally responsible companies in the world.

Diane MacEachern said...

I completely agree. Until we get tougher laws, regulatory oversight, and companies that truly go the extra mile to create safe products, we'll always be at risk.

Anonymous said...

Johnson and Johnson can stand behind their products all they want, the fact that there are chemicals that are harmful in their products AT ALL is completely unacceptable. The TRUTH is, that even though it may only contain trace amounts, a baby's skin is much thinner than an adults and after repeated exposure to the "trace amounts" in several different products, IE: bath, then lotion, then powder, several times a day, the amount is no longer trace! Wake up and stop protecting your greedy ideals and start protecting the public. GREAT post by the way, you couldn't have been more real about the topic. GO MOM!!!


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