Showering with Cancerous Chemicals? Shampoo and Soap Hazards

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Do you know what's in your shampoo? Image by Kulmalukko

Do you know what’s in your shampoo? Image by Kulmalukko

You may be aware of what you put into your body, and the pros and cons of buying and eating organic food, but have you ever thought about your shampoo or your soap? We use these items everyday, and some have cancer-causing chemicals in them.

Recently, the Center for Environmental Health tested shampoos, soaps, and other personal care items that were sold by national retailers and found 98 with cancer-causing chemicals in them.

Cancer in Your Shower? Results of Testing

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has released their findings  on chemicals in shampoos, soaps, and other personal care products tested in August 2013.

What carcinogenic chemical did they find? Cocamide diethanolamine (cocamide DEA). Cocamide DEA is a chemically-modified form of coconut oil that manufacturers use as a thickener and a foaming agent in many of these products.

The CEH found cocamide DEA in Palmolive, American Crew Classic, Paul Mitchell, BIOSILK, Palmer’s, and many others. Products that manufacturers marketed for babies and children and sold at Babies ‘R’ Us and Toys ‘R’ Us also contained the cancer-causing chemical. One product that claimed it was organic contained cocamide DEA.

In the Center for Environmental Health’s press release, Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH, said, “Most people believe that

Diethanolamine is considered a cancer-causing chemical by California. Image by Jynto

California considers diethanolamine a cancer-causing chemical. Image by Jynto

products sold in major stores are tested for safety, but consumers need to know that they could be doused with a cancer-causing chemical every time they shower or shampoo. We expect companies to take swift action to end this unnecessary risk to our children’s and families’ health.”

The CEH filed a California lawsuit against four companies that sell those products, and sent out legal notices to more than 100 other companies that make products or sell products with cocamide DEA, as it violates California’s state law. We don’t know which companies CEH sent lawsuits to, but retailers that make or sell products with cocamide DEA include Target, CVS, Walgreens, Sephora, Kmart, and many others.

So how much cancer-causing chemicals are we lathering up with when we take a shower or wash our hands? According to CEH’s press release, in many of the products that were tested, they contained more than 10,000 parts per million of cocamide DEA – and one shampoo tested at more than 200,000 ppm, which is equal to 20 percent.

Cocamide DEA

California listed cocamide DEA as a chemical known to cause cancer in June 2012 based on the assessment done by The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which studied the exposure of the chemical on animal’s skin. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website gives cocamide DEA an overall hazard rating of a seven based on the knowledge and studies on cancer, allergies, immunotoxicity, and concerns over organ system toxicity.

cancer-shampooFood and Drug Administration (FDA), however, isn’t worried. According to the FDA website, “the FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be alarmed based on the use of these substances in cosmetics.” If the FDA determines that there are health hazards associated with cocamide DEA, then they will notify the public and will reconsider the substance’s standing on the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

If you don’t want to wait for the FDA to take action, look at the ingredient list on your shampoo bottle to see if any of the following are also listed, as other ingredients may also contain cocamide DEA.

Cocamide DEA: Cancer and Shampoo

California considers cocamide DEA a cancer-causing chemical, however, the FDA does not. So for those of us wondering what’s really in our shampoos, soaps, and other personal care items, the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website offers a place to look up products and find the safest ones on the market. Until there are more studies, then we will have to decide for ourselves as to what is safest for ourselves and our families.

Will you change your shampoo to avoid these chemicals?

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© Copyright 2013 Janelle Vaesa, MPH, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science
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