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Could your beauty and bath products make you sick?

News4Jax looks at potentially caustic cosmetics

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Legislation just introduced in the U.S. Senate, with bipartisan support, called the Personal Care Products Safety Act, would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to review five chemicals in personal care products each year.

It would start with these five ingredients, which are found in many products like lotion, bath soap, shampoo, hair treatments and cosmetics:

  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Diethyl phthalate
  • Methylene glycol/formaldehyde
  • Propylparaben
  • Quaternium-15

Dr. Rick Troendle, a chemist at the University of North Florida, reviewed several personal care items purchased at a local Walmart. He looked at the ingredients in baby sunscreen, facial cleanser, bubble bath and kids' lip balm, searching for the ingredients that would be on the feds' radar if this legislation passes. 

Troendle easily found Propylparaben in baby sunscreen and a common facial cleanser marketed to teenagers. The ingredient is considered safe but opponents would say otherwise.

"They would say it has estrogenic activity," Troendle explained.

That means it mimics estrogen in the body and it's been linked to certain forms of breast cancer. Troendle said the ingredient is meant to keep bacteria and mold out.

"They're in there to make these products last longer and the formaldehyde that they're producing is in very, very low levels," Troendle said.

Those low levels the FDA has deemed safe but News4Jax found parents who've changed the personal care products that they use on their children because they don't believe they're safe. 

The Beidleman family said some of those ingredients have caused them much strife.

Chantel Beidleman said her son, Harvey, suffered from red itchy rashes when he was 5 months old until he turned 2.

"He used to be covered, his whole face, here on his arms and on his legs," she recalled. "If we had family get-togethers and everyone wants to hug him and hold him and just like he was exposed to the scented washes, perfumes, lotions and detergent that everyone had on. By the time we were done with our family get-together, he was just red and you could see he was inflamed and angry."

Beidleman said at one point they counted more than 50 different products they were using to help fight the rash, but she later learned those products were part of the problem.

"He'd be good for one day and then the next day he would be on fire, so red," she said. "It would happen like that and we were like what's that? It's like up down, down, down up, down and it wasn't until he wiped out all the lotions that we found relief."

The entire family changed to products that are phthalate, sulfate and paraben free.

"Within the first week, he's soft, everything is leveling out," Beidleman said. "He's not scratching anymore. It's a world of difference."

Troendle said some people will have adverse side effects to those ingredients but the general population will not.


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