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Michelle Noehren's picture

A few years ago I started to learn about the utter lack of regulation by the FDA of many of the products used by women and children. Did you know that most of the ingredients in your body lotion, shampoo, baby shampoo, deodorant, shaving cream, perfume, tooth paste and other similar items are unregulated? In short, that means that every day most of us slather ourselves (and our kids) with chemicals that are known carcinogens (substances capable of causing cancer), endocrine disruptors (substances that affect hormones) or even teratogens (substances that can cause birth defects, among other things).

In my youthful righteousness I decided to rid my bathroom of all products that rated poorly in the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Skin Deep database (which meant I had to throw almost everything out). Over the past few years I let a few of my mainstream products creep back in (why can’t I ever find a decent natural deodorant?) and then I became pregnant.

During my pregnancy I was adamant about only using certain products on my body because I had read that the chemicals we put on our bodies affect the fetus more than the chemicals in the food we eat. While I made a conscious and informed decision to do this, I couldn’t help but think about all the other pregnant women that have no idea that the products they are using every day might be negatively impacting the bun(s) in their oven (or later affecting their growing baby through breast milk).

A great example of this is lipstick. A few years ago, a study showed that 61% of lipsticks tested by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics contained lead. Yes, lead. We all know that lead should never be ingested by children (or anyone for that matter) because it is linked to things like lower IQ’s, hyperactive disorders and less verbal competence. We have a special abatement process for lead paint in our homes; obviously it’s not something we should be coming into contact with. So if lead is too dangerous to put on our windowsills, how is it ok to put it on our lips? Lead, like many of these unregulated toxic chemicals, crosses the placenta easily, putting a fetus at risk. How is this acceptable? We deserve, as a basic human right, the ability to make informed decisions about the products we use on our bodies and to be protected from chemicals known to be harmful.

Here’s another example involving a product used frequently by millions to bathe their babies/children. For several years, activists have been calling for Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to stop using two cancer-causing chemicals in their products, including their very popular No More Tears baby shampoo. It was even discovered that J&J sells many other countries a different No More Tears baby shampoo – one free of these known carcinogens, while they continue to sell Americans the chemical-laden version. J&J recently agreed to start phasing out these chemicals over the next two years (but only in certain products; no word if they will also phase them out from their adult product lines).

So here we have two examples of known toxic chemicals being used in products that many of us use on a regular basis. Most people assume that these products are safe --otherwise how could they be sold? As busy working moms (or moms-to-be) we have so much on our plates already, it isn’t fair that we also have to worry about the long-term effects our everyday products may have on not only ourselves, but our children, whom we love so dearly. That is of course, if we are even aware that beneath the adorable packaging on our child’s baby shampoo lies a medley of toxic chemicals.

More regulation of toxic chemicals is vital to ensure our health and the health of future generations.

Blog is crossposted from

To look up your own beauty products check out Skin Deep.

For tips on how to make your own shampoo check out this blog post by Dena Fleno.

Michelle Noehren is the Events & Special Projects Manager at the Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and is the founder of, an online community for Connecticut working moms. In addition to her career, website, husband and baby girl, she also serves as co-chair of the National Mothers & Caregivers Economic Rights Advisory Committee.

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