(Health Secrets) Shampoos, lotions, powders and other children’s toiletries fall under the regulations that control cosmetics. The FDA is not required to test their safety. The only way to be assured a product you are thinking of using on your child will not contain harmful compounds is to look for a seal saying it is certified organic, and better yet, certified organic to food standards.
Infants and children are extremely vulnerable to the harmful effects of chemicals used in personal care products because their brains and organs are still growing and developing. The information that follows is to help you know how certain ingredients cause harm, how to read labels to avoid toxins, and how to find acceptable substitutes.
Major toxins found in children’s toiletries
There are degrees of toxicity. These are the hard core toxins you will want to avoid at all costs:
*Phthlates are known to disrupt the endocrine and reproductive systems, especially in young boys. It is suspected that the increase in male infertility is directly related to exposure to phthalates.
Phthlates are present in many baby care products such as lotions and shampoos. Europe and Canada are taking action, but the US is still dawdling, although there has been some effort to restrict the amount a product can contain. Although California passed a recent law that bans 6 types of phthalates in bottles and toys, phthalates in other products such as bath and skin care products have not been addressed, As there is no requirement to fully disclose ingredients on the label, there is no way to determine if they are phthalate free unless you buy certified organic products.
A recent study from the University of Washington determined that children weren’t just being exposed to phthalates through bottles, formula and chew toys, but were absorbing phthalates through their skin when personal care products were applied.
Researchers checked the urine of 163 infants aged 2 to 28 months. More than 80 percent of these children had 7 or more types of phthalates in their urine. The more frequently a baby was bathed and the more lotions used, the more phthalates were detected. Baby shampoo had been used on more than half the infants within 24 hours of the urine tests. Fourteen percent of the babies had powder applied, and over 30% had lotions applied. These babies had four times the level of phthalates in their urine than those babies whose parents had used no products on them.
The industry counters this study by stating the only phthalate used in baby products was DEP, so how could 7 or more different types be found? Yes, babies and children are exposed via many routes, but the fact remains that all phthalates were dramatically increased in babies whose parents had done nothing differently other than use shampoos, lotions and powders. This strongly indicates the increased phthalates came from these products. Remember, full ingredient disclosure isn’t required, so we don’t know exactly what the manufacturer is putting in these products.
*Carcinogens or cancer causing agents: Through its review of 23 peer-reviewed studies of cancer incidence from the past 50 years, the EPA has determined that infants up to age two are on average, ten times more vulnerable to carcinogenic chemicals than adults. For some cancer-causing agents, infants are up to 65 times more vulnerable. The Agency also found that children from age two to 15 are three times more vulnerable to carcinogens than adults. By incorporating these factors, the new risk assessment methods show that children accumulate up to 50% of their lifetime cancer risk by their second birthday, according to consumer advocate group Environmental Working group. Here are just a few ingredients known or suspected to cause cancer: Alkyl-phenol-ethoxylades, Ammonium laureth sulphate, Benzene, Cocamide (and cocomide)DEA, FDC- (FD&C) Colors, Glycols – Propylene glycol, Diethylene glycol, carbitol, Ethylene glycol.
*Fragrance is a term that denotes the possible presence of up to 4000 separate ingredients, almost all of them synthetic. Synthetic fragrances cause headaches, allergies, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, asthma and allergic skin reactions. They also affect the central nervous system causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes.
*1,4 Dioxane is a byproduct of the ethylation oxide used to make harsh, petroleum based ingredients gentler. It is a known carcinogen and suspected to cause kidney damage. Recently several supposedly “green” companies were exposed because their products contained this chemical which is direct proof of the presence of petroleum based chemicals. Again, you will not find this listed in the ingredients, especially because it is a byproduct and not part of the formula. If you see any of these ingredients listed on the bottle, stay far away from it: myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth, any other “eth,” or PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol
*Mineral oil: Would you put gasoline on your child? According to Environmental Working Group, 40% of all baby lotions and oils contain petroleum, a non-renewable hydrocarbon made from crude oil. This oil coats your baby’s skin in a non-breathable toxic film. According to Australia’s National Occupational Health and Safety Commissions (NOHSC), “Prolonged contact with mineral oil has the associated risk of developing skin conditions such as oil folliculitis, eczematous dermatitis, melanosis of the face and plantar warts.”
Petroleum also disrupts hormones and diminishes the skin’s ability to detoxify. It is the 2nd most likely cause of premature skin aging, following only excessive sun exposure. Mineral oil based sunscreens are now being implicated in promoting skin, colon and breast cancer and in fact, are found in most breast cancer tissue. Petroleum is a carcinogen, known to adversely effect health, yet still approved as safe by the FDA.
*Sodium laurel sulfates (SLS) and Sodium laureth sulfates (SLES): These ingredients are used to make shampoos, soaps and toothpaste sudsy. According to the Journal of American College of Toxicology, SLS can damage the immune system, cause separation of skin layers, and inflammation of the skin. The American College of Toxicology states that SLS/SLES can cause malformation of a baby’s eyes. These chemicals are absorbed easily through the skin and wind up in the heart, liver, lungs and brain.
*Parabens are often used as a preservative in everything from food to shampoo to baby wipes. Even at very low doses, parabens are known to cause reproductive damage and systemic organ toxicity.
Are products that carry the word natural safe to use on your baby or child? This term is not regulated and could mean anything. There is no guarantee of safety. Most personal care products labeled as natural contain at least one of the above ingredients and have petroleum chemicals in them.
How to reduce the toxic load in your children’s toiletries
*Read labels: Carry a list of the above ingredients with you when you go shopping.
*Keep it simple: Before a baby becomes mobile, warm water and a washcloth is usually all you need.
*Choose certified organic: When you do use products, choose products that are certified organic. For the most part, these products contain ingredients that are safe for your baby, your family and the environment.
Remember, the skin is the largest organ in the body and readily absorbs almost anything placed on it. The above ingredients are just some of the major toxins. There are many more. Assure your children’s future health by protecting them now. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients or have no idea what something is, if the label reads like a chemistry textbook, don’t buy it. Know what you are putting on your baby’s (and your own) skin.
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