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Parents take baby personal care manufacturers to court

By Simon Pitman , 24-Mar-2009
Last updated on 24-Mar-2009 at 17:50 GMT2009-03-24T17:50:53Z

Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble and Kimberley Clark are among a number of leading baby personal care manufacturers being taken to court over allegedly cancer-causing ingredients.

The class-action law suit was filed by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro (HBSS) on March 19 in the District Court of Chicago on behalf of ‘parents or other consumers who purchased any of an extensive list of products’, on the provision the court certifies the action.

The action is being filed as a result of a study conducted by the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics (CSC), which tested a series of baby personal care products for the carcinogens formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane.

1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde

According to the study 82 percent of products contained at least 54 parts per million of formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane – a level the body describes as ‘high’.

“Parents are frightened by these findings, and rightly so," said Steve Berman, attorney representing the plaintiffs and managing partner of Seattle-based HBSS.

"I can't imagine any parent covering their infant with a baby lotion that lists 'formaldehyde' on the label along with 'natural fragrance.'"

PCPC fights back agains the claims

However, key figures in the industry believe that the study findings are misleading and have been misinterpreted.

Two weeks ago the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) described the study findings and the resulting publicity as a cynical attempt to prey upon concerned parents.

It argues that CSC has falsely attempted to position the report as ‘scientifically noteworthy’ and new.

It counters the study findings by pointing out that 1,4 dioxane is not an ingredient in cosmetics products but a by-product created from the manufacture of certain detergent and solvent ingredients.

FDA says its findings show no cause for alarm

PCPC also quoted the FDA as stating that 1,4 dioxane levels found in their monitoring of personal care products and cosmetics ‘do not present a hazard to consumers.’

On the subject of formaldehyde, the PCPC says it is not added to cosmetics but rather released in very small doses by the formaldehyde-releasing preservatives that are used.

On top of that, the US FDA and the Cosmetic Ingredients Review Expert Panel concluded that formaldehyde in cosmetics and personal care products is safe and should not exceed 2,000ppm when measured as free formaldehyde, which matches the European legislation on the chemical.

CSC’s test of 28 products, which were chosen to be likely candidates for containing the chemical, showed 23 to contain between 54 and 610 ppm of formaldehyde.

The HBSS suit calls for medical monitoring of children and any one exposed to the products in question in an effort to ascertain the risks of exposures to the mentioned carcinogens.

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