Pin It

The Toxic Bubble Bath Debate

by Tiffany in Children

baby in bubble bath

Several years ago when I was fairly new to natural & green parenting, a good friend told me to avoid using conventional baby products where my newborn daughter was concerned. This meant ix-nay on the bubble bath, no tears shampoo, powder, and lotion that so many people bestowed upon me as gifts. My friend sent me some links though and I checked out what was in those products and quickly realized that these products had no place being rubbed on my baby’s skin or being put in her bath water. I will always be grateful to her for that information. Thanks Lauren…you rock!

In many ways it was that experience and others like it… such as when I found out how many noxious chemicals are in disposable diapers… that “set me off” on this path. I was horrified to learn how corporations could be so reckless with my health and with my children’s health. I was horrified that my government wasn’t doing a better job to protect us against this onslaught… I mean aren’t they responsible for national defense???? I felt betrayed on so many levels and decided then that I would change my life, change my consumer purchases, and hopefully help other moms who still hadn’t had that all important “Ahaa” moment.

Recently this issue has stirred the pot up something fierce and much of it revolves around mom bloggers. Johnson and Johnson enlisted the help of mom bloggers to promote their bath products in a large media campaign. They even started up a contest to encourage moms to use their products called Big Bubblin Stars.

A Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report disclosed that there are known carcinogens in baby bath products and J&J appears on the report several times. These carcinogens are 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde. The report in no way singles out J&J but in view of their current campaign to use moms to reach other moms, this is especially bad timing. ;)

It has prompted a different group of mom bloggers to cry foul and as I was reading some of their posts I noticed that many of them were being visited by a commenter who seemed bent on refuting the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report. He claimed that the FDA had deemed these products safe and was insinuating that anyone who dared disagree was creating hysteria and being naive.

That is actually what prompted me to post today. I was getting slowly infuriated by this BULL HONKEY. These products have known carcinogens in them. Carcinogen means “cancer causing”. The reason that companies get away with putting this stuff in the products we use on our children is simple…the regulatory agencies are declaring that the amount in the product is so small that it cannot be considered harmful. I am sorry but BULL HONKEY. As Jack Nicholson would say… “Go sell crazy someplace else.”

The amount may in fact be small but THIS mom and various watchdog agencies are concerned about cumulative exposure. The same cumulative exposure we worry about with BPA. One bath product may only have trace amounts of these harmful chemicals but how many baths do kids take? How many other products that also contain these harmful ingredients do they also use… lotion, shampoo, etc? Companies and regulatory agencies are not required to anticipate a total exposure level so it is no wonder that these products get a “safe” label when they are anything but safe, IMO.

And it is not just bath products. Imagine the potential for harm when we bathe our kids in chemical bath soap, then dress them in PJs with chemical flame retardants, put them to bed on a mattress that off gasses chemicals… all after a dinner of veggies grown with herbicides. We are bombarding our kids with chemicals and it NEEDS TO STOP! Why should any company get to stand by and peddle products that can potentially make our kids sick just because their product doesn’t have the full dose required to the do the job? The Kids Safe Chemical Act is an initiative that seeks to reform the nation’s toxic chemical regulatory law and change the products that consumers buy. Our kids are worth it and parents need to take a stand and not support companies and products that are lax about chemical safety and cumulative exposure.

And of course we need to SUPPORT companies that are making ethical and conscious decisions. Some that come to mind for me are EcoStore, Miessence Organics, and Tru Kid. Ironically at least two of these companies originated outside the US where safety is taken far more seriously.

  • Anna@Green Talk

    Beautifully stated, Tiffany and I don’t think you are being hysterical. I wholeheartedly agree with you about all the chemicals we bombard our children with everyday. It is no wonder there is a rise in autism, learning issues, cancer, diabetes, and other immune disorders. The more we write about it, the more parents gain knowledge to buy elsewhere and through this effort, the personal care products will change.

  • Amber

    We spray cancer causing chemicals on the food we eat, put cancer causing chemicals on the clothes we wear, pour cancer causing chemicals on our heads and bodies in the shower, and sleep on cancer causing chemicals, then we get in a righteous uproar and ask, “What causes cancer?!” Um…….duh.

  • andiscandis

    Does anyone know of any green cleansers and lotions that are good for kids with eczema/seriously sensitive skin? I switched from my natural brand because the fragrance (though light) was too much for my baby’s skin. I’m currently using the doctor’s recommendation, CeraVe, but would prefer to get something greener if possible.

  • Monica

    “BULL HONKEY” oh you crack me up…a light point much appreciated in this debate.

    If you are hysterical, then I am off the charts NutsO over the lack of accountability from companies especially now that consumers are waking up.

    I think the message that really needs to reach all parents is “Toxic Load” Understanding toxic load is very eye opening and will help parents view ALL products with more scrutiny for the cumulative effects.
    It sure feels good to wake up to all this and I am thankful for the blogging friends for leading the way when I was originally investigating all this.

    There was a time then the company had the last word…not anymore.

  • Great post Tiffany and if you’re cool with it I’d love to add this to the carnival. I’ve been reading these comments too and I just can’t believe it. I’m so thankful for the friends that have helped me and opened my eyes.

  • You are not being hysterical. This post is well written and right on. I have read from several sources how children’s systems for detoxification are not fully developed and are not yet able to handle to constant exposure to chemicals they are faced with. What may be small exposure for an adult is a more concentrated exposure for our children. The accumulation of all these toxins is alarming!

  • “And it is not just bath products. Imagine the potential for harm when we bathe our kids in chemical bath soap, then dress them in PJs with chemical flame retardants, put them to bed on a mattress that off gasses chemicals… all after a dinner of veggies grown with herbicides. We are bombarding our kids with chemicals and it NEEDS TO STOP!”

    EXACTLY! It is so easy to get overwhelmed. One of these companies contacted us about posting their “special price” just for my readers. I don’t do massed produced products and occasionally when I do, its is for safe and eco-friendly. You aren’t off base at all and I couldn’t agree more. It is out of hand, along with the other thousands of crappy government issues. Keep up the good reporting, I count on your posts!

  • Right on, sister. Love the Jack Nicholson line: “Go sell crazy someplace else.” Seriously, isn’t it a little dated to be dismissing women’s concerns by calling them hysterical? Thanks for your perspective. Cumulative exposure + tiny bodies/increased sensitivity = all the more reason to err on the side of caution. Great post!

  • Boy am I glad I’ve been using Dr. Bronner’s (Baby Mild) and ONLY Dr. Bronner’s w/my kids. Pure ingredients. Ethical company.

    It’s the JOB of places that are profiting off chemicals to keep things a-oh-kay (profitable). I would think it costs them more to pay lobbyist, PR folks, and fund political campaigns than it would for them to make safe products. You would THINK.

  • Michelle Payette

    Hysterical??? No way. This is ludicris. You are right is has to stop. May we each be the end of the road for companies that use known carcinogens in their products. Especially for our babes.

  • Kendahl

    I love this post. It was spot on to what I have been thinking these last couple of years. I would like more information on safe clothing if you’ve got it.

  • Amen sister! I couldn’t agree more. The ‘cumulative affect’ is what ticks me off every time I see one of those pro-HFCS commercials. There is no way to consume something in moderation if it is in EVERYTHING you eat!! grrrrr…

  • Right on, Tiffany!!!

  • Very well said!

  • Alicia

    I’ve always respected your moxie, Tiffany – but I have to say, I think I admire you more than ever right now!

    Sometimes I feel like I’m SO passionate about unregulated toxic chemicals in our kids products that I just don’t convey my thoughts as clearly as I wish I could. You did that for me and for all concerned parents across America right here.

    Thank you!

    • Thanks Alicia…that means a lot coming fom you. You are one of my kid safety heroes!

  • simplifiedmom

    This is HORRIBLE! This is my first time posting and I am horrified at the thought of all you shared. I have two babes and our daughter has always had trouble with bubble baths (as I think many girls do- gee, wonder why?). Our son has had severe Eczema since he was a baby and to this day cannot use hardly ANYTHING (no shampoo and no soaps)! It burns his skin so badly…it is no wonder why with all the JUNK in this stuff. Thank you so much for the good article. I know without a doubt that I need to really eliminate this stuff and find good inexpensive natural products as much as possible from both of their small bodies. It is up to us to take care and take charge…they need that from us! Thanks again :)

  • HealthyKitchenware

    Just want to suggest emu oil to the person that asked how to deal with eczema, etc. I usually get it at craft fairs in my area, but I am sure it can be found online.

  • Thank you! Yes, I agree. I think the amounts in most products are probably very very small, but the cumulative effect is definitely something we should be concerned about. Especially when people are told that babies (and adults) need so many different product for “healthy skin”–soap, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, sunscreen all on a daily basis.

  • A little bit of poison is still poison.
    I vote with my dollar. These companies are going to continue to lobby the government to maintain the status quo. As the demand for safe products continues to grow, they will have to change or lose business to other companies. Because it always seems to come down to the all mighty dollar.

  • Jackie

    Great post Tiffany! I do not think you are hysterical at all. I think my extended family thinks I am crazy sometimes, so it’s nice to come hear and read others on the same page as me : )

  • Good points, Tiffany. And remember all – we may complain a lot in our blogs, but if we want to have an impact, we need to use our purses. Stop buying the darn stuff!

  • Angela

    Tiffany, very well said! We also have switched to chemical-free, earthy friendly products. It still frustrates me that I can’t find 100% cotton AFFORDABLE WARM winter PJ’s that don’t have the fire retardant treatment in them. I think next year we may have to just purchase some flannel and make some…after I learn to sew. I always check the products I buy on They are a great reference site.

  • I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, but this is actually the first time I post.
    I would just like to say I completely agree with you and repeat what everyone else has said: You are not hysterical!!!
    I’ve been living in Europe for almost 20 years now and although generally speaking we do have better legislation on the EU level regarding chemicals in consumer products, I’m sad to say it still is a problem. I work in Brussels and have a lot of contacts with lobbyists (I myself lobby for the Fair Trade movement) and I can see there is a growing amount of Chemical Industry lobbyists (particularly from the US) always trying to get EU legislation watered down…
    I’m expecting my first child this month and this is an issue that has been of great interst to me and I’ve been trying to do the most research I possibly can in order to provide a safe environment for my child. Most bath products I will be using will be from Weleda, and even from them I will choose carefyully and try to use as few products as possible.
    Unfortunately, regarding many other products (mattresses, strollers, etc.) it’s not as clear what goes into their composition. It is really important that governments do something about this because it is very difficult for parents to have access to this information. I’d guess most of your readers are informed, educated people looking for information, but they are not the majority. It is an unfair discrimination that only those with access to this information can make an informed decision for their children, not to mention the price difference usually associated to healthier products, given it is still a niche market.
    Sorry for the lengthy comment, but this really does get to me!
    Keep up the good work!

  • Melissa Gephart

    BILL HONKEY – I love it! It’s about time consumers started demanding ethical practices from big companies. Just a little bit of carcinogen is NOT acceptable when it comes to our children. My son has severe skin issues and allergies, and it was shortly after his birth that I began researching ingredients in common children’s products and was shocked at what I found. We have converted our entire family to a natural skin care routine and have slowly been able to wean our son from all prescription ointments, etc. He still has severe eczema, but we can control it better with the use of natural products, diet management, etc. Great article Tiffany!

  • Christina

    Great post! I’m currently pregnant and most of my family isn’t into using green products as much as I am. I registered at three different places and all three places I put California Baby products on the registry hoping my family takes a hint and doesn’t buy me a bunch of J&J products. I also put cloth diapers on the registry as well and have informed our parents that we are going the cloth diaper route, so hopefully we don’t get a ton of disposables, either.

  • PeaceDog5

    Read ‘Toxic Beauty’ by Samuel S. Epstein, MD with Randall Fitzgerald. I just got the book and am only a few chapters in but it is extremely enlightening! It seems like there are carcinogens and/or hormone disruptors in virtually every main stream personal care product on the shelves! I’ve purchased organic personal products for years just because I wouldn’t buy anything that had been tested on animals. Now I have an even better reason, my two year old daughter.

  • Nieves

    When my daughter was born (14 yr ago) I got a lot of J&J and so I gave her a bath in it, and in about 20 min she broke out in a rash from head to toe (she was 2 month old) I then gave her another bath and just put Olive oil all over and in her bath. From that moment on I never bought J&J or anything related to that kind of stuff. I have a 3 yr old, and I have done the same for him. I can say that coconut oil is also very good, and it just coconut oil. Thank you
    I must run my 3 yr old needs me .

  • Right On!
    Actually an article on Baby Care products was the catalyst for many changes I’ve made over the past few years. It is simply not acceptable to use all of these chemicals when safer, effective alternatives exsist.
    Just like so many others, J&J will have to meet consumer demand eventually… just like you are seeing with HFCS-free and BPA-free labeling that is becoming more popular.

  • Tiffany, more power to you. I wholeheartedly agree with what you’re saying here. The more we bring this to the attention of moms the better it will be for everyone.

    It’s so discouraging that the big corporate mob deceive consumers in the worst possible way. I agree with the earlier remark a little bit of poison is still poison and then there is the whole issue of body burden.

    I have a post on my site that people can read more about this issue:


    Erin Ely
    Your Source for Miessence Certified Organic Baby Products

  • Stefanie Stricker

    Tiffany, No hysteria here. It’s true that chemicals are everywhere and that our children do not have fully functioning immune systems until 12 years of age. I am grateful that you and other Mom blogs have stood up to this publicity train and the dismissal of parent concerns. Thank you for taking a leadership role.

    Andiscandis and Simplifiedmom both mentioned looking for greener, affordable products especially for kids with sensitive skin and Eczema. I actually work with an American-based company that has some really outstanding products for people with these skin sensitivities. I was a customer because of my own daughter’s skin problems and loved the products & company so much, I started working with them. If you want to contact me directly for information, please do.

  • Jen

    One thing I’ve learned that I thought was a little crazy when I first heard it, is that your skin absorbs so much that you should never put anything on it that you wouldn’t eat. Once I came to understand and agree with that idea, it certainly put a new twist on the claim that a small amount of the bad stuff is ok “for external use only”!

  • Michelle Kennedy Hogan

    You are spot on! Thanks so much for posting this. We can’t have enough people emphasizing the dangers in these products!

  • Tiffany you rock! I love how straight forward and blunt you are. Thanks for recommending our products. That means a lot to us. Join us on Facebook if you can and right now we have free shipping on any order over $25.00. Again, well said. I love how you say it like it is.

  • Ecostore is a good source for environmentally friendly products. I have their shampoo and conditioner in my shower right now. Good products, reasonable prices. I’m gald you mentioned them!

  • kristen

    Here Here!You are not crazy. I always used natural stuff on my babies and kids. Checking out The Environmental Working Groups ratings of different products is really helpful.

  • Kathy

    Can I suggest an addition? You may get some readers for this article from people googling for information about the carcinogens and the report. I betcha a quick list of products that can be used for the same purposes which don’t have these ingredients in them would be helpful for them.

  • Stefanie Stricker

    I have also used The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. It’s very informative and eye-opening. You can look up your personal care products by name or ingredient to see a list of chemicals and a toxicity rating.

  • Jennifer Taggart

    Tiffany – Great post. No you are not hysterical. Our children use an average of 7 personal care products a day. Add that with the other sources of formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, and well, it is a lot more than just a little bit . . .

  • Good for you for putting your little guy on a probiotic, that is the best way to attack the issue of eczema. Of course you can apply lotions topically but the best way to go after it is to deal with the internal issues.

    I sell a few products that might be helpful for you in a need of relief.

    From the FAQ on my website:

    The ,a href=:“>Miessence Intensive Body Cream, Miessence Soothing Couperose Gel and Miessence Sunflower Body Wash will help to soothe and soften eczema.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    Keep up with the probiotic, that is key to helping.


  • simplifiedmom

    Hi again! I was hoping to find some good solutions here from other mommies about Eczema creams….thank you! Our little guy has really been through sooo much with his skin. We did not sleep through the night for the first three years of his life in fact-ugh! BUT he started on a yummy (according to him) kids chewable probiotic called Vidazorb that he LOVES. The real kicker is that it change his life! He went from only eating chicken, peas and rice to now eating pretty much the same things as his big sissy. He was so bad he itched and bled and was miserable. After A TON of prayer we found this probiotic and it has really really worked!!! He still gets an occasional flareup and I still watch chemical (for all of us) but this has been our miracle for sure. I appreciate hearing about creams for when he does have his occasional break-outs…thank so very much. I will be looking into all of your suggestions! If there is any other mom who needs help, I can tell you first hand, his Zorbee has given our little guy a whole new life. Thanks! girls!

  • Emily

    I have been reading your blog for about a month now, and am so happy I found it. I happened upon it when I was looking for “safe” carpet cleaner. I have a 9 month old and I can’t bear to clean my carpet with those harsh cleaners. I started becoming concerned about things like this when I had my first child, but my knowledge base has exploded since my second. I am trying everyday to make my childrens lives more healthy, and I want to thank you for helping me to do that.

  • Mindy

    Although my “green journey ” has been ongoing since Junior High School, I never realized that the companies that made products to put on our hair, bodies, etc. would be making something that was potentially dangerous. I used all of the bad stuff on my newborn daughter and feel dumb, naive, angry, and guilty about doing it. It makes me so mad that these companies put our babies (and us!) at risk all in the name of the mighty dollar. It took me several years to put it all together and live with the least amount of toxins in our lives. Unfortunately, my 7 yr. old daughter developed asthma at about 15 months old, and I have to live with the “not knowing” if it was something that could have been avoided. Some of my friends and family consider me a little overzealous in my journey but I know the truth and you do, too. (However, my friends always ask my advice when looking for products, vitamins, etc.- I am slowly converting them :) ) It makes me happy to know that this green and healthy knowledge is more widespread than ever before and that is thanks to you and the rest of us “radical and hysterical moms”!

  • You are so right! Nothing makes me more mad than companies trying to say that the amount in these products is so small that it does not matter. In fact chemicals absorbed through the skin are very effective. I watched a video by the Environmental Working Group where they compare the parts per billion found in products like Cialis. You can watch it on our site or theirs by searching for Kids Safe Chemical Act. One dose of Cialis is 30ppb. I think we have all seen the commercials that say call your doctor if you experience certain side effects. Obviously a very small dose does matter. What impact do these small doses have on our most vulnerable? People are exposing their children to chemical after chemical all day long. I would rather be safe than sorry.

  • Jill Subirats

    AMEN!!! Preach on!!!! So glad you are taking a stand.

  • I am glad you are writing about such important topics – as I have a 21 month old who doesn’t sleep well and I can barely find the time to get the few posts up that I do!! I am not surprised that a momblogger ‘sold out’ to hawk J&J. Ad dollars are BIG from big companies! It’s a shame though. She probably doesn’t even use the stuff on her 6 children! Another simple, organic, non-toxic baby wash is from Nature’s Paradise Organics. It’s basically coconut and smells like Hawaii!

    on another note – thanks for the recommendation of “Keepers of the Children” by Laura Ramirez. I am loving it!!

  • Lynn from

    Tifffany, I love the way you drew the complete picture of not just the personal care products, but the mattresses, the food..everything. We could go on and talk about the environment at most schools these days… I have a dream of you testifying as an expert witness in favor of the Kid Safe Act on Capitol Hill . Maybe that day will come!

    I also really appreciated how you came to Sommer’s defense when she was being slammed on her blog.

    Thanks for your contribution to the Green Moms Carnival (and congrats on your new gig at ivillage – just found that today!)

  • Stephenie Hendricks

    My youngest baby used to cry with Johnson’s No More Tears, and now I know it was because of formaldehyde and 1.4 dioxane contamination! Bravo to all of you women for speaking out! When the babies grow up, you should have them read “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry” by Stacy Malkan. You can get more info on chemicals in make-up and other pesonal products at

  • you’re not being hysterical at all. I’ve been weaning myself off of commercially made products this past year and have been making my own stuff, like bubble bath for my kids. It has castille soap in it, which doesn’t bubble up like the commercial stuff, but they still like it and I feel good that it’s all natural.

  • Vicky Harper

    Emily–if you’re still looking for a safe carpet cleaner, I can’t recommend Seventh Generation’s highly enough. I have 4 animals, 2 kids, and a husband who always tracks in mud…and beige carpet! It really works great.
    I don’t think J&J will ever change–they’ll just put a couple of essential oils in their products and label them “green.” Then all the sheeple will feel better and keep buying J&J poison.

  • Emily

    Thanks Vicky! I love seventh generation! I haven’t seen that at the store, so I will look on their website.

  • Jennifer

    I’m new to this blog and I’m loving it! Learning sooo very much! Thank you!

    I wonder though about the containers these “safe” or chemical-free bath and cleaning products are housed?

    Maybe the product inside is “safe” but how do we know the plastic containers are too?

    Have you heard anything about that from any of the companies you mention in your post?

    I’m soo very paranoid!

    • I don’t think I have ever seen bubble bath that did not come in a plastic bottle.

  • Good question.

    Miessence usese polypropylene, which is a plastic that does not leach into products. You can read about it on my website, under the “media resources” then click on the “glass vs plastic” which is a PDF file.

    Sorry I don’t have ability to post the direct link for you right now.

    The other issue is of course if a glass container gets dropped in the bathroom it is not very safe, so most companies do not package items that will be in the bathroom in glass.

    It’s a safety issue as well.


  • Amanda

    I have been called “obsessed” just because I am trying to keep my family healthy. When you know something is wrong, why is it “creating hysteria” to call it out and flag it as a problem? The way I see it, the more you get attacked for something, the more it shows that you are absolutely right about your concerns. The companies who make billions selling us cheap and unsafe products sure don’t want us protective mothers in their way! They hire PR people just to denigrate our natural instincts and protect their profits, in any way possible.
    You get the most flak when you are over the target.
    Thank you for speaking out–more of us need to do it!

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for the great info. I have recently starting only giving my baby girls organic food and it is straining our budget as I have quit my job to stay home with them. It is reassuring to see there are other moms out there who think this is an important issue and worth sacrificing for.


  • Leslie

    I recommend using the website skin deep to research any product you want to…Google Skin Deep if this link is not working. You can type in virtually any company and view all ingredients and the safety. I have yet to find a bubble bath other than California Baby that comes even close to safe…even that one I am not sold on. Thus far, I do not use bubble bath with my kids.

    Try the site, you just might start throwing away everything in your cabinets though!!!

  • Amy_moser

    Thank you! I have been making better food choices after watching Food Inc and now feel inspired to clean up other areas of my life! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Janet (Fertility Coach)

    Not to mention the chemicals from the bath products etc that accumulate in the water supply.

  • You GO, girl!  Like you, I don’t use any of the “standard” baby gifts…

  • Heather

    reminds me of when my son was a baby (hes five now) i used a baby wash on him that I got from my baby shower (not knowing any different) and within seconds literally he turned red and started screaming i rinsed him off and called the doctor as soon as possible and never used another “baby” product (no baby lotion, no baby shampoo, etc bc of his sensitive skin) just my two cents on this. I wish I would have known these things back then.

  • RobertG

    But the trouble is that the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is run by a group whose supposed science is biased.  They single out PARTICULAR materials as carcinogens, while ignoring the carcinogens in…everything else.  In an argument like this, it’s like whoever makes the 1st accus’n has the initiative and whoever tries to refute them is suspect.  I could find similar evidence of carcinogenicity in whatever people are using other than J&J products, and if I’d had the loudest mouth at the time I could paint J&J as the good guys.  Or whomever.