PSA of the Day: Cocamide Diethanolamine (cocamide DEA)

I rarely watch televised news (get my info online), but as luck would have it, I caught an interesting tidbit about a widely-used chemical that made me plunge into research.  Have you heard about cocamide diethanolamine (cocamide DEA)?  No?  Don’t feel bad, not too many have.

PSA of the Day

Controversy in a nutshell: The Center For Environmental Health (CEH) conducted independent testing and found products that are in violation of California law and their findings have lead to a lawsuit.  California considers cocamide DEA a cancer-causing chemical; the FDA does not.

With so much info floating around the Internet about potentially harmful this and potentially harmful that, sometimes it’s difficult to get worked up about these reports.  So what made me stop and listen?  The words products marketed for children were used in conjunction with the words cancer-causing chemicals.  Yep.  That will do it.

The full article can be read here (emphasis mine):

Testing finds dozens of shampoos, soaps, bubble baths, and other products sold by Walmart, Target, Babies R Us and other national retailers in violation of California law

Oakland, CA-Today, the Center for Environmental Health revealed independent testing finding a cancer-causing chemical in 98 shampoos, soaps, and other personal care products sold by major national retailers. The chemical, cocamide diethanolamine (cocamide DEA), a chemically-modified form of coconut oil used as a thickener or foaming agent in many products, was listed by California as a known carcinogen last year. Products tested with high levels of cocamide DEA include shampoos made by Colgate Palmolive, Colomer, Paul Mitchell, and many others. In addition, products marketed for children and a product falsely labeled as organic were found with the chemical, in violation of California law.

If you click on the above link, then scroll down, you will find a list of products that have the offending ingredient.  The highlighted green companies indicate their willingness to reformulate their products containing cocamide DEA.

I was left with this question: If the FDA doesn’t think there’s a problem, but California does, who’s right?  This is what I found:

~ Amended Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Cocamide DEA

Cliff Notes: “On the basis of the animal and clinical data presented in the present report, the Expert Panel concluded that Cocamide DEA is safe as used in rinse-off products and safe at concentrations 10% in leave-on cosmetic products.”

~ DETAILED Amended Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Cocamide DEA

Cliff Notes: This detailed analysis included the animal studies.  It’s a hairier read with the same conclusion.  Even knowing the conclusion, I read this and came out on the side of skepticism towards the FDA.  See what you think.

EWG’s Skin Deep: Cosmetic Database:

Who is EWG: EWG’s Skin Deep is an online safety guide for cosmetics and personal care products, launched in 2004 to help people find safer products, with fewer ingredients that are hazardous or that haven’t been thoroughly tested. Skin Deep combines product ingredient lists with information in more than 50 standard toxicity and regulatory databases. The database provides easy-to-navigate safety ratings for tens of thousands of personal care products.

Cliff Notes: EWG gives cocomide DEA an overall grade of 7 out of 10, putting the compoound in the high risk group.  If you click their link they outline the reasons why, as well as list their data sources.

This post is far from comprehensive, but the info gave me enough pause that I looked through the products we use in our home, searching for the chemical.

As I stated in the beginning, the FDA has not banned this substance and it considers it safe.  Does that mean we place our faith in the FDA or are we more comfortable avoiding the chemical until more is known?

It’s a decision each one of us has to make, but now you have some basic info to back you up, either way.

Knowledge is power, mah babies.

Research on!

Share It!


  1. Patti,
    Thanks for the “heads up”. I immediately went to check the products that I use on my precious grandbaby. While they did not contain cocamide diethanolamine (cocamide DEA), her baby wash did contain an ingredient called Cocoamidopropyl Betaine (CAP B) – since it sounded like it may be a close relative, I started researching & now I feel like a horrible “Nona” because it explains why we have been fighting a horrible, allergic, rash for the last 7 months!!! It’s already been chunked in the trash! Here is what I found:
    Cocamidopropyl Betaine

    NASTY, not used in ecostore products
    High Health Hazard. Contains harmful impurities. Suspected allergen and environmental toxin

    Cocoamidopropyl Betaine (CAP B) is a high foaming plant-based cleaning agent widely used in dish liquids, hand and body washes and baby products like bubble bath. It’s cheap and effective but contains the impurities amidoamine and dimethylaminopropylamine, which can cause skin sensitisation.Voted Allergen of the Year 2004 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. REFERENCE :(1. 2.
    EWG Rating 4 out of 4

    • Mrs. Tucker says

      It’s shocking to think that products marketed for children may contain harmful chemicals. Thanks for the food for thought. ~off to research~

  2. Even more shocking is that it is in her “Extra Gentle, Night Time Lavender Baby Wash” It even says on the front label in bold *HYPOALLERGENIC

    • Mrs. Tucker says

      Hope this solves the rash issue. Come back and let us know how it works. Good luck!

    • Traci: I forgot to add that if you are looking for a soothing moisturizer for both you and baby, try virgin coconut oil. I get mine at Costco, but I’m betting you can get it at Sam’s too. My DIL introduced me to it and I use it for EVERYTHING! (cooking included!)

  3. Oh my gosh. So good to know. Will have to pass this on!

    • Glad to help. Interestingly, since that momentary blurb on the news, I haven’t heard a word about this issue. Mommy blogs will take hold of this and GO!

  4. Yikes! Makes me want to keep making our own soaps and other products here at the house. At least I know what’s in them. Thanks for sharing this info.

  5. This is terrifying! I will be checking our products and sharing with others. Thanks for the PSA!

  6. I really should pay more attention to whats in the things I put in and on my body. Shaking my head at myself.

    • I had no idea, had never heard of this, until that small blurb I happened to hear in passing, so you’re not alone.

  7. Thanks for this well researched post…saw it on the link-up over at Crafts A La Mode. Pinning this!

  8. This is great information. We started making and using natural products a few years ago. All of the chemicals are so bad. It’s hard finding products without that stuff. People have given Charly Johnson’s Baby products, and I explained to her why they were bad. I have found some good lines at Whole Foods for baby’s. I even use one of the baby shampoos to make bubble bath. I happen to be allergic to Dr. Bonners, so I am limited to even what I can use.

    Thank you so much for sharing with Adorned From Above’s Link Party. We love having your join the fun.
    Debi and Charly @ Adorned From Above


  1. […] know I love a PSA.  Check it HERE, HERE, HERE and […]

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.