According to a new report from the Center for Environmental Health, dozens of shampoos, soaps, and other personal care products the nonprofit group tested contained cocamide diethanolamine, otherwise known as cocamide DEA. The basis of the chemical—coconut oil—seems innocent enough. But scientists tinker with the ingredient, modifying it into an unnatural, toxic form.
The kicker? The change is not even necessary. The chemical is usually added as a thickening and foaming agent.
California listed cocamide DEA as a known carcionogen in 2012 under its Prop 65 law, which requires warning labels on consumer products containing carcinogens or reproductive toxicants.
The Center for Environmental Health recently filed a California lawsuit against four companies that sell shampoo and personal care products containing the toxic chemical without a warning label. The group detected cocamide DEA in shampoo ingredients sold in stores like Walmart, Target, Babies 'R' Us, and other major national retailers. Some name brands contained the carcinogen, as did store brands sold at Walmart, Trader Joe's, Pharmaca, and Kohl's, according to the nonprofit. "Most people believe that 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," said Michael Green, executive director of the Center for Environmental Health. "We expect companies to take swift action to end this unnecessary risk to our children's and families' health."
Some other things uncovered through the center's independent testing:
• A store brand children's bubble bath from Kmart and a children's shampoo and conditioner from Babies 'R' Us also contained cocamide DEA.
• Falsely labeled organic products from Organic by Africa's Best also tested for high levels of the cancer-causing chemical
• One shampoo tested contained a whopping 20 percent cocamide DEA.
• See the list of shampoos reportedly containing cocamide DEA.
Here's how to clean up your shampoo routine:
Choose safer shower staples. Look for safer shampoos, such as The Honest Company Shampoo and Body Wash, John Masters Bare, or Intelligent Nutrients Harmonic. When you're on the road, old-fashioned nontoxic shampoo bars work well, too.
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Know the other no-no's. Cocamide DEA also goes by other names on ingredients lists, notes Environmental Working Group, a consumer-safety group. (See the list.)
Make your bathroom a safe zone. To create a truly healthy bathroom, replace vinyl shower curtains with a less-toxic plastic like ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). Better yet, choose hemp or cotton shower curtains. (Hemp is naturally mildew resistant.) For more tips, read How to Clean Up Your Toxic Shower.