California Suit Against Whole Foods for Carcinogen in Body Care Products, with Corporate Puff Response from CEO John Mackey and the Truth from Nutritionist Cheryl Rounds

"Organic" Megamerchant Waited Til Only After Suit Was Filed to Remove Offending Body Care Products! Time to Dump Your Shares?

Santa Fe, New Mexico 7/07/2008 10:44 AM GMT (TransWorldNews)

California Suit Against Whole Foods for Carcinogen in Body Care Products

By Ronnie Cummins, Founder, Organic Consumers Association, and Prepared here by Stephen Fox, Managing Editor, Santa Fe Sun News

California Files Lawsuit Against Whole Foods, Avalon, and Others Whose Products Tested Positive for Carcinogenic 1,4-Dioxane in OCA Study

Details are here:

OAKLAND, CA - Reacting in part to a study released by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) in March of this year, but also based on their own testing, the Attorney General of California has filed a major lawsuit against body care household-cleaning product companies whose products recently tested highest for the carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane.   

Under California's "Proposition 65" consumer products that contain toxic levels of 1,4 Dioxane must have warning labels stating they may cause cancer.  1,4-Dioxane is typically produced as a byproduct when ingredients are ethoxylated with the petrochemical ethylene oxide, a process which has become standard practice for many cleansing and moisturizing products.  

The suit, California v. Avalon Natural Products (manufacturer of the Alba brand), also names Whole Foods Market California (manufacturer of the Whole Foods 365 brand), Beaumont Products (manufacturer of the Citrus Magic brand), and Nutribiotic.


It is unclear exactly which products manufactured by the aforementioned companies triggered the lawsuit, but all named companies have sold products that tested close to or in excess of 20 parts per million for 1,4-Dioxane in the OCA study released at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, CA in March.

Last week OCA sent a letter to the four companies named in the California lawsuit to see if they are planning changes to their labeling or product formulations.  Only one company responded.  In a letter to the OCA,
Beaumont Products wrote, "Upon being notified that there was a problem with our product, we verified that the problem existed, then took immediate action." Beaumont has reformulated their products to remove the problematic ingredient, highlighting their dedication to providing safe products, in contrast to the lack of action taken by the other three companies.

The California Attorney General (AG) alleges these companies should have put warning labels on products containing high levels of 1,4-Dioxane, stating that they may cause cancer. The lawsuit states, "Plaintiff alleges that  each defendant has known since at least May 29, 2004 that the body washes and gels and liquid dish soaps contain, 1,4-dioxane and that persons using these products are exposed to 1,4-dioxane."  Per Proposition 65, fines for mislabeled products are as high as $2,500 per day for each violation.

"These companies need to stop treating the inclusion of cancer causing chemicals in their products as 'business as usual' and reformulate before consumer confidence in the natural products and organics industry is permanently damaged," says consumer activist David Steinman who conducted the OCA study and originally exposed the presence of 1,4-Dioxane in baby bubble bath products in his book
Safe Trip to Eden and in a February, 2007 press conference with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

The AG's complaint 
states that California wants, "…preliminary injunctions, permanent injunctions, or other orders prohibiting the defendant(s) from exposing persons within the State of California to 1,4-dioxane without providing clear and reasonable warnings…"

"The OCA's 1,4-dioxane study elevated the issue of fake 'natural' and 'organic' brands that utilize petrochemicals in their formulas in March, and now we are seeing labeling enforcement on a scale never seen before," says OCA National Director Ronnie Cummins. "We used an independent laboratory and found that numerous 'natural' and 'organic' brands tested positive for 1,4-Dioxane, a cancer causing contaminant resulting from the petrochemical ethylene oxide being attached to one or more ingredients."

For immediate release: Interviews with David Steinman or Ronnie Cummins can be arranged by contacting Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671.



Response for Whole Foods CEO and Founder, John Mackey, to SunNews query

We believe that OCA’s allegations are inaccurate. We have conducted our own investigation into the allegations that some of our products contain 1,4-dioxane and do not believe that these products represent a health risk or are in excess of California’s Proposition 65 Safe Harbor level for 1,4-dioxane. We are cooperating with the California Attorney General’s office to resolve these claims as quickly as possible. For shoppers who are looking for alternatives to the products named by the OCA, we carry numerous USDA organically certified personal care products in addition to other products that meet our own Premium Body Care standards. Our standards have been designed utilizing the most current research and resources to evaluate products in key areas of safety, naturalness, efficacy, environmental impact
and labeling.

Regards, Libba Letton, Media Relations, Whole Foods Market


Analysis of California's Whole Foods Lawsuit
by Cheryl Rounds in an exclusive to Santa Fe Sun News, published July 4, 2008 

Under California Proposition 65 any substance that contains a known carcinogen must carry a warning label or face prosecution. Most people are under the assumption that body care products are regulated by the FDA or some other federal agency that assures safety and purity.  In fact in 1938, the Cosmetic Act made manufacturers of body care responsible for regulating the
products they produced.  At the time it was assumed the skin was impervious to any of the chemicals they may have used in their beauty formulas.  

Today with the introduction and effectiveness of skin patches for drug delivery, we are more aware that chemicals placed on the skin’s surface will be absorbed into the body.  Even worse every chemical our body is exposed to may not be totally eliminated and may be stored in the body’s fat and tissues.  The storage of chemicals in the body is called “body burden” and there is not a
person alive today that does not have some sort of body burden. Additionally each child born today will inherit some of their mother’s body burden and then will add to this burden throughout their lifetime.  

There are over 30,000 different chemicals used in body care products today. At least one third are known to be carcinogenic, estrogenic, teratogenic or to cause various problems in human beings.  The strategy of the chemical companies who produce these substances is to deny and/or minimize the problems they may cause.  One of there key arguments is that these chemicals are in such minute quantities in their products that they couldn’t possibly cause harm.  This argument negates the fact that these chemicals are in multiple products that are used daily along with multiple other chemicals that could cause synergistic effects.

The chemical named in the lawsuit is 1.4-Dioxane.  1,4-Dioxane is not added directly to body care products but rather it is a by product of the chemical process that turns Sodium (or Ammonium) Laurel Sulfate (SLS)  to Sodium (or Ammonium) Laureth Sulfate. Sodium Laurel Sulfate is a very harsh and powerful sudsing agent and degreaser. Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a slightly larger molecule that is little less harsh on the skin.  To make the Lauteth version Ethylene Oxide (a petroleum product and known carcinogen) is added to the SLS .in a process called ethoxolation.


Chemical companies like to confuse us and claim that one chemical is safer than the other but in truth the safety of neither has been proven.  While only certain manufactures were named in the current lawsuit any body care product or cleanser that has Sodium or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate as an ingredient will also contain 1,4-Dioxane. There are other unintentional ingredients such as nitrosamines and formaldehyde that also show up in body care products. However, aside from these chemicals, we also need to look more closely at the chemicals that manufacturers intentionally put into our personal care.  

Many such as phthalates and parabens have been associated with cancers and have been outlawed in Europe. Our manufacturers continue to use these chemicals because they are cheap and effective for the uses they want and manufacturers value profit above safety.  They also choose to confuse us, often by noting the natural source of the chemical in parenthesis as (coconut oil) and by noting the words natural or organic somewhere on the label.  But be aware that unless accompanied by a third party certification seal such as USDA organic, these words are just marketing terms designed to have us think these products are greener than they really are.  This is a marketing technique called “greenwashing."

The bottom line is most commercially sold body care products contain chemicals that can harm our health and that of the planet. There are good products available but we have to educate ourselves as to how to read labels and what to look for.  As long as our laws allow manufactures to use questionable chemicals in the products they sell us, buying these products in a store such as Whole Foods or a high end department store, .is no assurance of quality.  The quickest way to get good products to the market place is to vote with your purse and stop buying products with chemical ingredients.  

Whole Foods shame on you!  Many people trusted you to do better!

Cheryl Rounds has a BS in Human Nutrition from the University of Massachusetts.  After graduating she went on to do independent research on the topics of Whole Foods Nutrition and Holistic Health.  She currently writes and lectures on holistic topics in the hopes of inspiring people to make healthier choices for both themselves and the planet. Find out more at her website:


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