Some leading international brands of personal care products for babies and children have made all sorts of miraculous claims recently via Australian media, regarding their safety and beneficial effects.
Yet interestingly at the same time reports have been released from a leading consumer group the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, that nearly half of these international products have never been assessed for safety by the “Food and Drug Administration”.
The Environmental Working Group, which surveyed 3,300 parents to see what bath and body products they used most often on their children, says that youngsters may be exposed to five dozen chemicals every day.
“What we found was alarming!” said Jane Houlihan of the EWG. Reports found that almost all of the most popular products contain ingredients that could be harmful.
In this report “Study Shows Infants Exposed to Reproductive Toxins from Shampoo, Lotion, and Powder”1
Houlihan said “These are things that can disrupt the hormone system, cause allergies and are linked to cancer and nervous system problems via laboratory studies.”
The EWG says claims made on many product labels “just aren’t true.”
“We found that 80 percent of products that are labeled as gentle, contain ingredients that are linked to allergies and to skin irritation,” Houlihan said. The products range from shampoos to soaps to toothpaste.
Which Chemicals Should I watch out for?
I have read many articles over the last few years about the dangers of personal care products. Without going into too much detail in this particular blog, ingredients that I watch out for and try to avoid are:
- sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- olefin sulfonates
- ammonium lauryl sulfate
- sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
These have a ‘detergent’ or foaming action in many baby bath and shampoo products. Not only do these ingredients strip the naturally present fatty acids, moisture and amino acids from the hair and skin resulting in an increase in dryness and roughness of the skin leading to irritation and contact allergies, they may even disturb the healthy growth process of new hair and skin cells. They have been shown to cause cancer in lab animals and have been associated with cataracts.2
- Preservatives including propyl paraben
An expert panel at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that an acceptable daily intake of propyl pareban, a commonly used preservative in many baby products, could not be established as recent research questioned its impact on sperm production in rats.3
Propyl paraben is still widely used in many types of consumer products and alarmingly, in babycare products.
- mineral oil and lanolin
- propylene glycol
- phthlates including DEP, DBP, BBzP, DEHP, DMP
- artificial or synthetic fragrance
- added colour
-The EWG responded to another study which appeared in the Journal of Pediatrics showing for the first time that infants are exposed to potent reproductive toxins called phthalates from everyday baby products, including shampoo, lotion, and powder.4
“This new research provides strong evidence that phthalates in baby products end up inside babies bodies, where they pose real-world risks for reproductive system damage among baby boys. We hope these results spur companies to remove phthalates from products. [Ed] There is no justification for keeping them on the shelves” said Jane Houlihan, Vice President for Research of Environmental Working Group.
Unlike for food additives and drugs, cosmetic companies aren’t required to test their products for safety before they are sold. An EWG study found that personal care products expose children to an average of 60 chemicals every day that they can breathe in or that absorb through their skin.
EWG product testing, conducted in partnership with Health Care Without Harm and other members of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, showed phthalates in three-quarters of 72 name-brand products tested.
Because federal law contains no safety standard for cosmetics, it is legal for companies to use ingredients that are reproductive toxins like phthalates, carcinogens, and other potentially harmful substances.
Now a new study is raising more concern. Doctors tested the urine of 163 babies and found more than 80 percent of them were exposed to phthalates used to stabilize fragrances in products. Researchers say the chemicals could have come from baby shampoo, lotion and powder.5
Studies show phthalates can cause reproductive problems in boys and early puberty in girls. Houlihan said “there’s a significant body of evidence that suggests that there’s a real cause for concern,”
For concerned parents, the Environmental Working Group advises:
- parents to use fewer products to limit exposure.
- choose products that are unscented and don’t contain artificial dyes and preservatives
- avoid using baby powder and commercial toothpaste in children under 2 years old
- avoid products that have fragrance in them because fragrance often contains phthalates
The information regarding these products is certainly daunting yet invaluable.
Yours in Health,
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani
. . . . .
(2) What’s Really In Your Shampoo Published August 13, 2009 on the EGW website https://www.ewg.org/node/28188
(3) Widespread Pollutants with Endocrine-disrupting Effects. Our Stolen Future website https://www.ourstolenfuture.org/Basics/chemlist.htm
(4) Toddlers Exposed To Toxins In Baby Products NEW YORK (CBS), Kirstin Cole Published February 5 2008, seen on the EWG website https://www.ewg.org/node/25975
(5) Some children’s bath products hazardous, Cox News Service February 8, 2007 on the EWG website https://www.ewg.org/node/21373