You’ve probably heard that the first 3 years of a child’s life is the most critical for development and that during this crucial time babies’ exposure to chemicals should be avoided at all cost so that every baby has the chance to develop into a healthy adult. However, in the US, babies unfortunately may be exposed to harmful chemicals by well intentioned parents simply because baby care products, just like personal care products for adults, are not regulated to the extent they should be.
Babies, just like grown-ups, are exposed to many toxic chemicals via personal care products throughout the day including sunscreens, ointments, oils, shampoos and soaps. Many of these products are easily absorbed through the skin into the blood stream, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), babies are at least ten times more vulnerable to chemicals in these products than adults!
All parents should avoid exposing babies and children to toxic products because every exposure adds to a child’s total, long-term toxic load which can put them at risk for illness and disease during childhood and throughout their adult years.
Here are the chemicals of concern and should be avoided when buying baby care products:
- 1, 4-Dioxane
- Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
- Ethanolamines and nitrosamines
- Mineral Oil
According to the CDC, 1,4 dioxane is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and is toxic to your brain, central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. However, Johnson & Johnson baby care products include this toxic chemical AND quaternium-15, which releases formaldehyde. Formeldahyde causes irritation of the skin, eye, and respiratory system, and is a known carcinogen.
Common ingredients likely to be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane include the following:
- PEG-100 stearate
- sodium laureth sulfate
The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics decided to independently test a sample of 48 well-known children’s bath products for 1,4-dioxane; 28 were also checked for traces of formaldehyde. Here are the results:
- Sixty-seven percent of products (32 out of 48) contained 1,4-dioxane. The highest levels were from American Girl shower products from Bath & Body Works.
- Of the products tested, 61 percent (17 out of 28) contained both formaldehyde AND 1,4-dioxane. These included big names like:
Johnson’s Baby Shampoo
Sesame Street Bubble Bath
Grins & Giggles Milk & Honey Baby Wash
Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wash
- Eighty-two percent of products (23 out of 28) contained formaldehyde and the product with the highest level of formaldehyde was Baby Magic Baby Lotion
Although Johnson and Johnson has agreed to phase out the use of preservatives that release formaldehyde in their baby care products it seems pretty ridiculous that their same products sold in other countries are already free of these chemicals but remain in phase-out stage in order to be “re-formulated” in the US!
SLN’s Take Home Message
It is clear that parents need to evaluate baby care products before purchasing them. Reading labels to make sure the above mentioned chemicals are not included, as well as choosing products that are fragrance free and contain recognizable ingredients that are natural and plant based. Also, look for products with the USDA Organic Seal.
Here are some of my favorite baby care products.