Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble: How Moms Create Their Own Tipping Point For Change, by Mary Clare Hunt

DucksWhen you start asking moms to promote products that other moms and organizations find troubling and maybe even toxic, you can expect a backlash of conversation.

That’s what happened when Johnson and Johnson launched a contest called Big Bubblin Stars, in which the winning video of kids having fun in a bubble bath garners $10,000 in prize money.  You didn’t have to buy the J&J products and yet, wouldn’t you? It’s $10,000 after all, and it seems fun and safe enough. But is it?

The troubling part for many moms was that the contest promoted the use of products that contained dubious chemistry, shown over time to build up in the little bodies soaking in it. The launch of Bubblin Stars also coincided with a report from the Safe Cosmetics Organization titled No More Toxic Tub. In the bubble bath case, the moms were specifically questioning the use of products containing 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, included in some J&J products.

What’s the big deal? Well, according to areport on a site focused on reducing breast cancer, it’s not just in J&J products. As stated in the report:

Laboratory tests released today revealed the presence of 1,4-Dioxane in products such as Hello Kitty Bubble Bath, Huggies Baby Wash, Johnson’s Baby Wash, Scooby-Doo Bubble Bath and Sesame Street Bubble Bath. The tests also found the carcinogen in Clairol Herbal Essences shampoo, Olay Complete Body Wash and many other personal care products.

1,4-Dioxane is a petroleum-derived contaminant considered a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a clear-cut animal carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program. It is also on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known or suspected by the state to cause cancer or birth defects. Because it is a contaminant produced during manufacturing, the FDA does not require it to be listed as an ingredient on product labels. (Bold type has been added for emphasis.)

So what did these concerned moms do?

Green mom carnivalWithin 2 days, they mobilized, conducted research, wrote blogs and posted their own spoof of the contest. Sommer Poquette also hosted and posted a mini carnival of concerns on her Clean and Green Mom blog.

Then See Jane Do, an online radio program, got wind of it and asked Lynn Miller, Lisa Frack and Jennifer Taggert to join a discussion along with another prominent mom activist, Joan Blades of Mom’s Rising. Lynn Miller is a marketer and founder of the blog Organic Mania and the Green Moms Carnival. Lisa Frack is the online parent coordinator for the Environmental Working Group and Jennifer Taggert is a lawyer, engineer and author of The Smart Mama, a blog promoting a toxic-free life for kids. She also wrote the Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure.

The Green Mom Carnival crowd isn’t the only concerned group, in a newsletter the same week the Eco Mom Alliance announced their partnership with the Seventh Generation and EWG to provide product samples and education on how to reduce your exposure to bad chemistry.

Remember, the issue is long-term build up, not one-off exposure. Jennifer Taggert recapped it well on a follow up post here. She was justifiably irked that moms are looked upon as crazy for caring. She also noted in a background research report she prepared for the Green Carnival group that the EU has ceased allowing dioxane to be present in consumer goods.

If the EU has disallowed it, what is happening in the US? We asked the two popular potions standards to comment. Eco Logo and Green Seal, which are both coming out with new personal care standards this spring. Cheryl Baldwin, PhD and VP of Science and Standards at Green Seal said, “We have a new standard that will be released soon (any day now) that covers soaps, cleansers, shampoos, and other rinse-off products (GS-44).  It prohibits the use of the components that are the sources of the chemicals found by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (e.g 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde). The SMaRTStandard also won’t certify any product that has the Stockholm “Dirty Dozen”chemicals, which include dioxanes.

After first being ignored or sent to underlings with no knowledge of the subject, Johnson and Johnson provided a statement to Jenn Savedge of the Green Parent.

“The trace levels of certain compounds found by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics can result from processes that make our products gentle for babies and safe from bacteria growth. The FDA and other government agencies around the world consider these trace levels safe, and all our products meet or exceed the regulatory requirements in every country where they are sold. Experts such as MDs, toxicologists and clinical scientists regularly review the safety data for all ingredients used in our products. In addition, we test our final baby product formulations for safety. Once our products are in the marketplace, we continually monitor consumer experiences and review evolving scientific data.

The mom’s aren’t buying it – literally. If they have a choice (and they do) they’re going to buy products that are erring on the side of NO 1,4-dioxane no matter how “trace” it is and they are encouraging others to do the same.

From Sommer Poquette’s Carnival of Concerned Moms:

1. Sign the Declaration and tell your friends to sign the declaration to get the Kids Safe Chemical Act passed.

2. Write your legislator, as the Mindful Momma suggests.

3. Use safer products by consulting the Skin Deep Data Base and tell companies, such as Johnson and Johnson and the others listed on the report, what you want as consumers.  Check out the Safe Mama and her hundreds of reviews and cheat sheets for safe baby care products and Healthy Child, Healthy World for suggestions and tips.

4. Promote this post anyway you can to get the word out there. #NoToxins to follow the Green Mom’s Carnival on Twitter!

5. Send any bottles back to the manufacturer that aren’t used or are half used. Stop using them and demand for safer ingredients and full disclosure!

Lessons learned for companies selling personal care products:

1. Don’t ignore women bloggers who are concerned enough to call. It really ticks them off.

2. The standards for what is safe or not have changed, update your product line to get in line with world expectations. (If Detroit can drop Hummers, you can drop dioxanes.)

3. Mommy blogger’s all know one another. If you don’t think they are comparing notes with each other – think again!

This post originally appeared on the blog In Women We Trust. You can contact the author at maryclarehunt@gmail.com

1 Comment
  1. I had no idea! Thanks.

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