Environmental Protection

Carcinogen Outlawed in California Found in 98 Shampoos, Soaps

Popular brand names sold by major retailers include products marketed to kids.

Environment News Service (ENS) reported August 30, 2013 that a carcinogen outlawed in California was found in 98 shampoos, soaps and other personal care products sold by major retailers, including some online retailers, within the state.

Popular brand names, including Colgate Palmolive, Prell, Paul Mitchell and many other little-known brands, were found to contain cocamide diethanolamine, known as cocamide DEA, a chemically-modified form of coconut oil used as a thickener or foaming agent. The chemical was also found in products marketed for children and a product falsely labeled as organic.

In addition to many brand name shampoos and personal care products, the tests identified cocamide DEA in store-brand products purchased at Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Pharmaca, and Kohl’s. A store brand of children’s bubble bath from Kmart and a children’s shampoo/conditioner from Babies R Us were also found to contain cocamide DEA.

The chemical was listed in June 2012 by California under Proposition 65 as a known carcinogen based on the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which classed cocamide DEA as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Oakland-based nonprofit Center for Environmental Health purchased the shampoos, soaps and other products and commissioned an independent lab to determine the total content of cocamide DEA they contained. In many cases, products contain more than 10,000 ppm cocamide DEA, and one shampoo tested at more than 200,000 ppm—20 percent cocamide DEA.

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