The recent announcement by Johnson & Johnson that they were planning to phase formaldehyde and other carcinogens (quaternium 15 releases formaldehyde) out of their products by 2015 (out of baby products by 2013) may cause you to wonder who you can trust.

There are those who would say that you should just read the labels, but realistically, without a degree in organic chemistry what are the odds that you would know that quaternium 15 releases formaldehyde?

Since not one but both of my parents have degrees in organic chemistry, I will pass on a tidbit from them. Natural is not always safer. Both hemlock and arsenic are natural. There are things that are artificial and still safer than their natural counterparts. You actually have to understand the chemical.

Which is where the Environmental Working Group or EWG and The Good Guide come in.

EWG has a database called Skin Deep where they evaluate the toxicity of each individual chemical in a product. They also rate the product as a whole and tell you why the product has its rating. What they do not do is rate based on any social or environmental factors. They do tell you whether or not the product is tested on animals. For personal care products I like them better than The Good Guide.

The main reason is that Good Guide ratings are dose dependent. For example, fluoride is a toxin at certain doses, so if a toothpaste has a lot of fluoride they trigger a warning, but lower doses do not trigger a warning. That bugs me because on a personal care product, dosage varies. I use that half a pea amount that they recommend on the tube, but my husband puts an inch on his brush. So is it dangerous for him?

That said, you may want to check them both and make your own informed choice.

So for an idea of what each page is like here is the EWG Skin Deep page on Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo with Lavender.

And here is the one from The Good Guide

The Good Guide is associated with Scorecard which allows you to check a specific chemical for toxicity against a database.

You can find the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database at the following address

You can find The Good Guide here

You can find the chemical scorecard here