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A watchdog group in Oakland, CA has sued four companies, with plans to file suit against several more, alleging that the companies sold these products without first attaching labels warning customers that they contain high levels of a harmful carcinogen.

The Center for Environmental Health revealed independent testing locating a cancer-causing chemical in around 100 shampoos, soaps, and other personal care products that are sold by several major national retailers.  The chemical is known as cocamide diethanolamine (or cocamide DEA), which is a chemically-modified version of coconut oil used as a thickening or foaming agent for many products, and it was listed as a known carcinogen by the state of California last year.  Thus, any products sold in California that contain cocamide DEA are required by law to include the following message on a label:  “Warning: This product contains cocamide DEA, a substance known to the state of California to cause cancer.”

The CEH filed the lawsuit against four companies that sell products containing cocamide DEA, and they have sent legal notices to other companies and retailers that produce and/or sell products containing the chemical, stating that their products have violated state law.  “Most people believe that products sold in major stores are tested for safety, but consumers need to know that they could be doused with a cancer-causing chemical every time they shower or shampoo,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH in a press release.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the defendants “knowingly and intentionally expose individuals in California to chemicals known to the State to cause cancer without providing clear and reasonable warnings to individuals prior to their exposure.”  It seeks damages of $2,500 per day for each violation, along with a request for a permanent injunction against selling products in California without the proper labeling.

Want to avoid the possible risk of using a product that may contain harmful chemicals?  Here are a few links to help you make a decision on the best eco-friendly vegan personal and hair care products, and how you can make your own!