As you may have guessed, if you or your child have ever gotten a rash after bathing with an allegedly mild "baby" or "natural" product, not all soaps, shampoos or body washes are truly clean. But while you might expect as much from conventional cleansers, what's irksome is that many items bearing "organic" and "natural" claims contain some carcinogenic ingredients.

A new study by the Organic Consumers Association has found the carcinogenic chemical ethylene oxide and its carcinogenic byproduct, 1. 4 dioxane, as well as other synthetics that may cause skin reactions, in many cleansers "misbranded as organic." Dr. Bronner, for one, is fed up: This week, the company filed a lawsuit against several personal care companies demanding that they stop making misleading organic labeling claims.

What label can we rely on? Look for "USDA certified organic," which means that at least 95 percent certified organic ingredients, and no synthetic petrochemicals, were used. In the OCA study, no products with this label contained the risky chemicals.

As for "natural," it's a completely unregulated claim, with no set standards. That's set to change in a couple of months, however, when personal care products bearing the National Products Association's new Seal of Approval come to market. We'll keep you posted.

On Mother's Day, little luxuries like soaps and body washes, perfumed with plant essential oils, are great to give a Mom who seldom indulges herself. For purest products, and news on Dr. Bronner's lawsuit, see OCA's Coming Clean Campaign.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in May 2008. The story was moved to

Copyright Environ Press 2008