Cocamide DEA found in some shampoo bottles

Can it put your health at risk?

Author: Eryka Washington , Consumer Reporter, Fill-in anchor, ewashington@wkmg.com
Published On: Nov 01 2013 11:15:00 PM EDT   Updated On: Nov 04 2013 04:23:07 PM EST
Risky suds
ORLANDO, Fla. -

You may have seen the report making headlines in news papers, magazines and on-line on websites. Mommy bloggers are also writing about the dangers of Cocamide DEA.

So what is Cocamide DEA? It comes from coconut oil and is a foaming agent used to make bubbles and also acts as a thickener.

[WEB EXTRA: Shampoos of concern]

But it is also a carcinogen -- a cancer causing chemical.

Caroline Cox, Research Director at Centers for Environmental Health says every time you squeeze the shampoo bottle, you're putting your family at risk.

"At least one percent of what's in your hand is Cocamide DEA, and that going in your hair and absorbed in your skin," said Cox.

We took the center's list to local stores and found many of the products on the shelves, and nearly everyone Local 6 talked to wanted to see the list.

Dana West wanted to check to see if her shampoo was on the list.

"Yeah I want to know, can I look at your list?" asked West.

"It's pretty easy to protect yourself," Cox said. "The ingredients are listed on the label on the back of the shampoo. Just look through the ingredient list and if you see Cocamide DEA, just go buy a different shampoo."

But how worried should we really be? Dr. Joseph Thundiyil of MD Anderson in Orlando says Cocamide DEA is only rated as a "possible carcinogen" under the International Agency on Research for Cancer.

"We have a lot of other things to worry about that are known and probable carcinogens, and I would focus your energy on those because we know those cause cancer and have link to cancer," said Thundiyil.

While Cocamide DEA has been found to cause cancer in animals, the question remains if it will surface in humans. Thundiyil says you can always use the precautionary principal.

"Sometimes if we are not sure, it's nice to have that information on the bottle so each consumer can decide for themselves," Thundiyil explains.

Activist and mommy blogger Shane Shirley-Smith adheres to this rule.

"If there is information that I found that I researched that looks solid to me, then I'm definitely going to take the precaution and eliminate it from my family," said Shirley-Smith.

This research by the Centers for Environmental Health is enough to cause Shirley-Smith and others concern.

"We have a son who has been fighting cancer for 7 years," said Marty Henry. "We would definitely not consider a shampoo with anything risky in it."

Inez Clayton also has some worries.

"I'm concerned because I had an aunt pass away from breast cancer," said Clayton.

Debbie Sumner isn't convinced labels or warnings will make a difference.

"Smoking can cause cancer. They put the warning on that," said Sumner. "Did it decrease the smoking? No, I don't think so."

Don't expect to see warning labels on these bottles of shampoo, as that law is only in California.

According to Dr. Thundiyil if you are concerned, the International Agency on Research for Cancer has a complete list of known and probable carcinogens.