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Report: Baby Magic (and others) Contain Formaldehyde and 1,4-Dioxane

Is formaldehyde the "magic" in Baby Magic?

Is formaldehyde the "magic" in Baby Magic?

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A new report released regarding a study of 48 different baby bath products revealed that 28 of them contained the contaminants formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, both of which are known carcinogens.   The report stresses that these substances are not intentionally added and so do not show up on an ingredient list.  They are contaminants in the true sense of the word, a byproduct of the manufacturing and production of certain ingredients, but certainly avoidable.

Among the worst was Baby Magic, which contained the highest levels of formaldehyde, and American Girl products, which were found to contain the highest levels of dioxane.  Consumers beware!  For more information about harmful products may be in your personal hygiene products, visit the Cosmetics Database at EWG.org.

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U.S. News: Children’s Bath Products Contain Contaminants

U.S. News and World Report, By Amanda Gardner
Published March 12, 2009

THURSDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) — Many baby and child-care products contain the chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, both of which have been linked to cancer and various skin conditions, a new report contends.

But the chemicals aren’t listed on the labels of bubble bath, shampoo and other common products, according to the report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic Use.

“Companies can obviously do better, and we need to demand that they do better,” said Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic Use and co-author of the report, released Thursday. “Many companies are already making great products that don’t have any of these chemicals [and] many companies in the natural products industry have reformulated to get rid of that problem. We also know many companies are using preservatives that don’t use formaldehyde.”

According to the authors, the report, called No More Toxic Tub, is the first to document contamination of children’s products with these chemicals. The Environmental Working Group was involved in the analyses.

Both formaldehyde and dioxane are considered “contaminants,” Malkan said.

A contaminant “is a chemical that is not intentionally added to the product but is a byproduct,” she said. “Those are all exempt from labeling laws … Companies don’t even have to know themselves.”

Dioxane is a byproduct of chemical processing and formaldehyde is released from some of the chemicals that are used as preservatives, Malkan said.

John Bailey is chief scientist for the Personal Care Products Council, a national trade association for the cosmetic and personal care products industry. Responding to the report, he said, “These are issues that have been around for many, many years, so it’s not new news. The thing that impressed me was the low levels of dioxane that were found in these products, which indicates to me that the industry is doing its job in keeping this potential contaminant down to a low level.”

Bailey also said there were wasn’t enough information in the report to gauge how accurate the determinations of formaldehyde levels were.

Malkan and her co-authors tested 48 bubble baths, shampoos and other baby and children’s products for dioxane and 28 of those products for formaldehyde.

Among their findings:

* Almost two-thirds of the 28 products contained both chemicals, including Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wash.
* Eighty-two percent of products tested contained formaldehyde; the highest levels were found in Baby Magic Baby Lotion.
* American Girl shower products had the highest levels of dioxane among products tested.

“The good news is that there are great products without any of these chemicals,” Malkan said. “The challenge is you have to do some research to find them. It’s not a simple matter of looking at the label.”

According to Malkan, the U.S. Department of Agriculture “organic seal” indicates that none of these chemicals are present.

“The best advice for consumers is that simple is better, products with fewer ingredients overall,” she said. “There are things consumers can do to make better choices at the store but we also need to change regulations and require companies to list all ingredients in the products and to make the safest products they can, especially products for babies.”

Harmful chemicals and contaminants in children’s products is a subject of continuing controversy. Earlier this week, it was announced that baby bottles made with the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) will no longer be sold in the United States by the six largest manufacturers of the products.

BPA, which is found in a wide range of products, mimics the hormone estrogen and may disrupt the body’s endocrine system. The chemical poses a particular threat to fetuses, infants and children because it can interfere with cell function when their bodies are still developing, public health experts say. The chemical has been linked with diabetes, heart disease, cancer and developmental delays in children.

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Bittersweet Study Discovers Mercury in Foods Containing High- Fructose Corn Syrup

mercury-warning2

According a new report, fish and other seafood aren't the only dietary sources of toxic mercury.

[Mercury] damages the central nervous system, endocrine system, kidneys, and other organs, and adversely affects the mouth, gums, and teeth.  Exposure over long periods of time … can result in brain damage and ultimately death.  Mercury and its compounds are particularly toxic to fetuses and infants … Mercury exposure in young children can have severe neurological consequences, preventing nerve sheaths from forming properly.

Wikipedia, mercury poisoning

Consumers should take heed of a recent study, which discovered the presence of low doses of the toxic heavy metal, mercury (Hg), in foods containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Researchers at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP – http://www.iatp.org/) have released the findings of a study performed on 55 foods containing HFCS, which discovered that 31% of the foods tested – 1 out of every 3 samples – contained traces of mercury “several times higher than the lowest detectable limits”.

Mercury was found in minute quantities up to 350 ppt (parts per trillion), a level that food manufacturers and the Corn Syrup Refiners Association say is far below any threshold set by Federal Agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Such exposure is safe, they argue, and to inflate these findings and cause public alarm is “irresponsible” – at least, according to Tom Forsythe, spokesman for General Mills, maker of Yoplait® yogurt.  The FDA seems to share this opinion.

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration was alerted of the presence of mercury in HFCS-containing foods four years earlier, but chose to ignore the information.  In 2005, Renee Dufault, then researcher for the FDA and lead author for Environmental Health journal, conducted tests similar to the IATP’s and highlighted her findings of mercury in 9 of 20 samples in a report given to the agency.   They apparently did nothing to address this toxic threat. Her results were cited in the Environmental Health journal in January 2009 (abstract available).

[High-Fructose Corn Syrup] now appears to be a significant additional source of mercury, one never before considered … [but is a] completely avoidable problem.

IATP January 2009 release

The news caused an immediate stir in the online community, especially among health proponents who have monitored the presence of mercury in vaccines and seafood for the past several years.  Many health advocates warn of the presence of mercury in common products such as canned tuna, vaccine preservatives, and fluorescent light bulbs, as well as the associated risks and negative health effects this particular element has on the human body and the environment.

Mercury, they argue, is a known toxin even at minute quantities – indeed, it is the most toxic naturally occurring, non-radioactive metal on Earth.  It is particularly damaging to developing infants and small children, and, coincidentally or not, children represent the largest consumers of HFCS’s, second to teenagers.

Undoubtedly, this study has enormous implications because it is well-known by the scientific community that mercury – in any form – is extremely toxic and bioaccumulative, meaning that trace amounts of this element accumulate in the tissues and organs of living beings.  Over time, the presence of this toxin wreaks havoc on all bodily systems and can manifest in many different ways.

In this regard, and in my opinion, it is somewhat a moot point to argue that the mercury levels in the sampled foods are safe because they contain only a miniscule quantity of mercury, a position obviously taken by General Mills.  Poisons that accumulate in our bodies simply have no business being in our foods, especially if their presence is completely avoidable.

Why Mercury?

The inevitable question presents itself, “How did mercury get there?”

The answer is simple: certain producers of high fructose corn syrup use “mercury-grade caustic soda” (lye) to separate corn kernels from corn starch, thereby contaminating the corn starch with toxic mercury vapors, which is then further processed into HFCS – a very common sweetener in many processed foods.

Caustic soda can be produced in three ways: by utilizing mercury cells, membrane cells, or diaphragm cells.  These cells are basically vats of aqueous solution containing salt (NaCl).  These vats are electrically charged through a process called electrolysis, which chemically breaks apart the sodium molecules to produce chlorine and caustic soda (NaOH).  As NaOH is produced, it will chemically react with the chlorine unless one of the three cell methods is utilized.

Using the mercury cell process, the sodium ions (Na) are further reduced to a sodium amalgam through the introduction of liquid mercury.  This sodium amalgam is then reacted with water to produce caustic soda.   Lye produced utilizing this method is considered to be the highest-grade available, while the membrane cell method utilizes less electricity.

hgnaohelectrolysis1

This diagram shows the mercury cell process, which is far more technical than the simplified explanation above.

A somewhat dated fact sheet (2002) stated that “approximately 13% of electrolytically produced Caustic Soda in North America is produced” using the mercury cell method.

According to the EH abstract cited above, mercury-grade caustic lye is used to produce sodium benzoate and citric acid – two other potentially contaminated food sources.  One may assume that since corn starch is produced using lye, corn starch itself may also be cotaminated.

What has not been publicly recognized is that mercury cell technology can also contaminate all the food grade chemicals made from it, including caustic soda.

IATP January 2009 Release

The Study

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy obtained 55 samples of foods containing high-fructose corn syrup, manufactured by brand name companies such as Kraft, Hunt’s, Hershey’s and Quaker, as well as one private label store brand, Market Pantry.  The foods sampled included typical foods snacked on by average consumers: soft drinks, snack bars, barbecue sauces, yogurt, chocolate milk, jelly, toaster treats and ketchup, among others.

According to the results of the study, published directly by the IATP in January 2009, 17 of the sampled items contained “elevated mercury levels”, and at least 9 of them had mercury levels between 100 and 350 ppt.   The sampled foods with levels of mercury detected included (mercury amounts expressed in parts per trillion*):

Quaker Oatmeal to Go, manufactured by PepsiCo (350 ppt)

Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce, manufactured by Heinz (300 ppt)

Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup (257 ppt)

Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce (200 ppt)

Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars, manufactured by Kellogg Company (180 ppt)

Manwich Bold Sloppy Joe (canned sauce), manufactured by ConAgra Foods (150 ppt)

Market Pantry Grape Jelly, manufactured by Target Corporation (130 ppt)

Smucker’s Strawberry Jelly, manufactured by J. M. Smuckers Company (100 ppt)

Pop-Tarts Frosted Blueberry, manufactured by Kellogg Company (100 ppt)

Hunt’s Tomato Ketchup, manufactured by ConAgra Foods (87 ppt)

Wish-Bone Western Sweet & Smooth, manufactured by Unilever (72 ppt)

Coca-Cola Classic (62 ppt)

Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt, manufactured by General Mills (60 ppt)

Minute Maid Berry Punch, manufactured by Coco-Cola (40 ppt)

Yoo-hoo Chocolate Drink, manufactured by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (30 ppt)

Nesquik Chocolate Milk, manufactured by Nestle (30 ppt)

Kemps Fat Free Chocolate Milk (30 ppt)

(see full chart)

Surprisingly, while the typical soda contains 17 teaspoons of HFCS’s (page 6), mercury was not found in the large majority of soft drinks tested besides Coca-Cola Classic.  Among those that fared favorably were: Dr. Pepper, A & W Root Beer, Kool-Aid, Sunny-D, Powerade, Lipton Green Tea, Pepsi Cola, 7-Up, and Hi-C.  Regardless, the IATP’s study reports that teenagers (ages 13-18) consume an average of 85 gallons of soda per year, which translates into 9,180 teaspoons of HFCS just by drinking soda alone!  In fact, the average person consumes about 12 teaspoons of HFCS each and every day – an amount that can significantly increase one’s exposure to mercury if eating typical items like those found in the list above.

How Much Mercury Are We Talking About, And How Much Is Considered Safe?

The FDA has set maximum exposure amounts for mercury in regard to public drinking water and seafood.  The maximum mercury concentration in water is set at 2 parts per billion (ppb), while the maximum concentration in seafood cannot exceed 1 part per million (ppm). The FDA states that the 1 ppm threshold is set at 10 times less than “the lowest levels associated with adverse effects”.

To help visualize the amount of mercury concentration expressed in ppm: the legal limit (1 ppm) is merely one drop in a standard bathtub filled to the overflow.  At that level, the FDA warns that consumers should not eat more than seven ounces of fish per week – approximately two and a half small cans of tuna.  On the other hand, the 2 ppb level set for drinking water is approximately 2 drops in 500 barrels of water.

Finally, to put the above discovered mercury concentrations in perspective, try to visualize 20 Olympic-size pools, each 2 meters deep, stacked on top of one another with one drop of mercury in them.  That represents 1 ppt.  That is an incredibly small amount, for sure, but still a potentially bioaccumulative source of toxic mercury – a source that, according to IATP and health advocates, is entirely avoidable.

Once it’s in the body, mercury can limit normal brain activity and nervous system functions … It is especially dangerous for developing infants and small children and can cause decreased motor skills and learning disabilities at even low levels of exposure.

Linda E. Greer, Ph.D., Director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Health Program

Adverse Effects of Mercury Poisoning:

Because of mercury’s bioaccumulative nature, excess mercury can collect in the brain, tissues and organs of the affected individual, resulting in a wide variety of symptoms, including psychological disturbances, digestive problems, cardiovascular issues, respiratory problems, loss of speech and neurological problems resulting in mood swings and aggressive behavior.

It has long been established that mercury is destructive to the brain, which gave rise to the phrase, “mad as a hatter” – an accurate label for hatters who used to use mercury to cure the felt in their hats.   Most of these “mad hatters” went insane and/or died at an early age because of mercury poisoning.  This has led many to believe that there is a connection between vaccinations containing the mercury-laden preservative, Thimerosal, and the onset and rising prevalence of autism.  Still others speculate that mercury is a leading cause for such disorders as attention deficit and possibly alzheimer’s.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG – http://www.ewg.org) states that mercury toxicity causes “damage to the brain and nervous system, immune system, enzyme system and genetic system.”  EWG adds that developing fetuses are especially vulnerable to the destructive effects of mercury.  Scientists have shown that mercury destroys the dendrites and axons of neurons, leaving only an empty “nerve sheath” (see video below).

According to research performed by EWG in 2004, ten babies were found to have mercury present in their umbilical cord blood.   Another study in 2006 showed that 72 of 73 individuals tested positive for traces of methylmercury.

Wikipedia lists the effects of mercury poisoning as “excessive timidity, diffidence, increasing shyness, loss of self-confidence, anxiety, and a desire to remain unobserved and unobtrusive”.  These characteristics also mirror  the destruction of personality often present in children at the onset of autism.

Consumers can be sure that the debate over mercury’s presence in our lives will only be ignited by this new study.

Main study conducted by IATP:

http://www.healthobservatory.org/library.cfm?refid=105026

For more information on HFCS:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_fructose_corn_syrup

http://www.hfcsfacts.com/ High Fructose Corn Syrup Refiners

Related articles:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/lifestyle/health/chi-mercury-corn-syrupjan27,0,2801323.story

http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2009/1/26/132619/467/?source=most_popular

More information on mercury toxicity:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_(element)#Safety

http://www.ewg.org/chemindex/term/470

Videos:

http://commons.ucalgary.ca/mercury/ – This video shows how damaging the presence of mercury is to neurons.  Watch as the dendrites wither, leaving only an empty nerve sheaths.  Scientists have already established that mercury is bioaccumulative, a good portion of which concentrates in organs and in the brain.  What sort of damage are we doing to our delicate nervous systems?

http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-2945_5105_47868-181553–,00.html – This is an outstanding video showing how exposed mercury quickly dissipates into the air, wreaking havoc as an environmental toxin.  This video also shows how difficult mercury is to remove, without causing it to become even more volatile.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ylnQ-T7oi – I found this a couple of years ago regarding silver amalgam fillings.  Thankfully, I don’t have any silver amalgam fillings.  Perhaps this will convince some readers to have theirs removed.  If you do, be sure that all necessary precautions are taken to avoid exposing yourself further or your dentists.

http://www.newmoa.org/prevention/mercury/imerc/video.cfm – This is a short five-minute video showing the cycle of mercury pollution and contamination.

Biomagnification:

http://www.on.ec.gc.ca/community/classroom/millennium/m3-science-assign2-e.html – This simple exercise allows one to see how quickly minute quantities of toxic chemicals like mercury can build up in animals higher up the food chain.  As humans are at the top of the food chain, it would be wise for us to be prudent in our exposure to mercury, especially when it is avoidable.

See also: Bioaccumulation

 

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Everyday Pollution Solutions

In cleaning agents, carpets, paint, plastics, foods and cooking utensils, the chemical cocktail adding to our body-burden is nowhere more apparent than in our own homes.

In cleaning agents, carpets, paints, plastics, foods and cooking utensils, the chemical cocktail adding to our body-burden is nowhere more apparent than in our own homes. The CDC's chart is grossly inadequate. For example, formaldehyde (listed above) is a known carcinogen, but cancer is not listed in the health effects.

Everyday Pollution Solutions
Your Guide to Going Green

1. Use cast iron pans instead of nonstick. Read about Teflon health concerns.

2. To avoid chemicals leaching into food, go easy on processed, canned or fast foods and never microwave plastic. Read about Bisphenol A, a toxic food-can lining ingredient associated with birth defects.

3. Buy organic, or eat vegetables and fruit from the “Cleanest 12” list. Find out more about the “Dirty Dozen.”

4. Pregnant women should use iodized salt to combat chemical interference from the thyroid. Read about rocket fuel’s effect on the thyroid.

5. Seal outdoor wooden structures. Order a test kit to find out if your wooden deck, picnic table, or playset is leaching arsenic.

6. Leave your shoes at the door. This cuts down on dust-bound pollutants in the home [and germs].

7. Avoid perfume, cologne and products with added fragrance. Search for personal care products that are fragrance-free, or check the products you’re already using.

8. Buy products with natural fibers, like cotton and wool, that are naturally fire resistant. Use our list of products and manufacturers to avoid the chemical flame retardant PBDE.

9. Eat low-mercury fish like tilapia & pollock, rather than high-mercury choices like tuna & swordfish. Check our Safe Fish List to see which fish to avoid and what’s safe to eat.

10. Filter your water for drinking and cooking. How does your tap water stack up? Search our tap water database to see what you’re drinking. [see also, “Chemical Contaminants: Bottled Water vs. Tap Water“]

11. Learn your personal body burden. Take a step-by-step tour of your home to learn the toxic truth about how household products contribute to your body burden of industrial chemicals.

[from EWG.org]

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2008 in Current Health News, Food, Health & Wellness

 

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The Body Burden: Toxic Chemicals in our Bodies

About two years ago, I came across the website, www.ewg.org. At that time, the Environmental Working Group had just finished a comprehensive study of 8 random American adults. Using blood tests specifically designed to look for over 400 different man-made chemicals, the study found up to 300+ chemicals in one specimen! Many of these chemicals are known scientifically to cause: mutations, birth defects, tumors, cancer, hormonal imbalances, hormone disruptions, organ toxicity and much more. Because the cosmetic (and personal hygiene products) industry is not regulated by the FDA or USDA, EWG has been working to raise the awareness of what they termed the “body burden”. Most recently, their efforts have raised the awareness of bisphenol-A, an estrogen copy-cat chemical that is being blamed for a host of reproductive issues, as well as that of dioxane, a particularly nasty carcinogen found in some “natural” and “organic” personal hygiene products.

EWG has compiled a user-friendly database that consumers can use to search for his or her own personal hygiene products. This database includes the ingredients of each product, as well as the known toxic effects of those ingredients and the possible harm that substance may do to your body. Whether you smear lead-containing lipstick on your lips, spike your hair with endocrine disrupting hair gel, or moisturize your skin with cancer-causing, paraben-containing lotion, all of us are unconsciously subjecting our bodies to an onslaught of toxic chemicals. EWG’s studies have concluded that many of these chemicals are bioaccumulative, meaning they are not eliminated naturally by the body, but are stored as toxins in organs and tissues that later may manifest in a number of different diseases and/or afflictions. Did you know that anything containing “fragrance” literally contains hundreds of chemicals, many of which are synthetic, including phthalates, which are known carcinogens, tetragens and mutagens?

Needless to say, since first coming across this website, I have changed all of my personal hygiene products and have convinced those around me to switch to certified organic or all-natural, plant-derived products. For instance, I don’t wear cologne (so I apologize if my odor offends!), don’t use anti-perspirant or deodorant, use non-fluoride all-natural toothpaste, and use only organic plant-based soaps. I don’t use fragrances in my detergents, don’t use air fresheners, and use all-natural, biodegradeable cleaners around the home. Many of these items are readily available at larger HEB’s, at Whole Foods, and a growing number of places. If we demand these products, the manufacturers will produce them and we will be taking steps to alleviate the Body Burden of future generations.

Pollution is a growing problem in newborns

Pollution is a growing problem in newborns

Already, EWG has discovered that newborns share in this burden before they are given a choice. A recent study of the umbilical cord blood from a random sampling of newborns around the country has confirmed the worst: 150+ of these chemicals have already crossed the placenta barrier and are accumulating in the fetus, even before birth. With the onset of so many new allergies, conditions, syndromes and the pandemic rise of things like attention deficit disorder and autism, doesn’t it make sense to look to the chemicals that are known to cause these problems and which we are exposing ourselves to, repeatedly, day after day? Chances are, what’s in your home and vanity cabinet are more toxic to you than the foods you eat – or try to avoid.

If you want to learn more, visit EWG’s website. Or, click these links to learn more about the Body Burden we share, or the Pollution in Newborns.

Better yet, make the change today – visit the cosmetic database and find out how to make your life less toxic.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2008 in Current Health News, Health & Wellness

 

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