A new study brings to light a potentially dangerous link between chemicals used in ordinary products, such as baby shampoos and lotions, to reproductive problems in children. The chemicals, called phthalates, have been under attack by some environmental advocacy groups, according to a Feb. 4, 2008 AP News article, although experts are uncertain what dangers they might pose.
The study, which appears in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, found elevated levels of phthalates in the urine of babies who recently had baby products applied to them. The federal government does not limit their use, even though California and some European countries will have restricted their use beginning in 2009. Although the Food and Drug Administration stated that this study “has no compelling evidence that phthalates pose a safety risk when used in cosmetics,” it has many parents paying closer attention to what products they are putting on their children.
“We really need to take a look at the number of products we use on a daily basis and figure out what we truly need,” said Stacy Malkan, spokeswoman for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Cosmetic Industry.
According to Malkan, these chemicals do not remain in the body for long periods of time. They can be flushed out within 24 hours. However, due to the ubiquitous use of the chemicals in thousands of personal care products used daily, we are continuously exposed to them.
Malkan said that phthalates are hormone disruptors and block the production of testosterone. This can cause problems in utero as well as through adulthood, causing a cascade of reproductive issues. The chemicals have been linked to undescended testicles, testicular tumors, low fertility and infertility. “This study directly correlates the phthalate level in babies with the use of personal care products,” Malkan said. “Reproductive toxins just do not belong in baby shampoos and lotions.”
Of the 163 babies between two and 28 months that participated in the study, 100 percent of them had at least one phthalate, and 80 percent had at least seven different types.
But many parents are stuck with their hands tied, because retail products aren’t required to list individual ingredients of fragrances, which are a common phthalate source.
A group of concerned mothers on a Babyfit.com message board have decided to take it upon themselves to learn more about the ingredients in the products they are using, and make drastic changes to ensure to the best of their ability that their children remain safe. After one mother posted a link to the Web site (www.cosmeticdatabase.com) , the floodgates opened up.
Some of the sentiments were:
“Between the BPA and the phthalates, I want to scream. This just is not fair to our children. I shudder to think about the possible harm I’ve already caused.”
“I have always tried to be cautious about what I put in and on my body, but this just takes it to a whole new level! Companies don’t even have to add these bad ingredients on their lists, so how are we to be sure?”
“We need to demand better of these companies. Most chemicals and preservatives are added because it is cheaper and increases shelf life. They aren’t necessary.”
“I just lost someone close to me to cancer and the statistics say 1 out of every 3 people will get cancer… Why? So we can buy cheap crap?”
“I had worked in an environmental lab for seven years before I quit to become a stay-at-home-mom. If you ladies saw what I saw, you would lose your minds.”
Every day, children are exposed to an average of 27 personal care ingredients that have not been found safe for kids, according to a national survey conducted in 2007 by Environmental Working Group (EWG), creator of (cosmeticdatabase.com) .
A search for Huggies Baby Lotion with Chamomile and Lavender reveals a wealth of information about the product, including but not limited to: its ranking (both as an average for the entire project and per ingredient), whether or not it does animal testing, and a list of concerns (cancer, endocrine disruption, allergies, developmental/reproductive toxicity) paralleled with each specific ingredient.
The ranking system is color-coded for easy viewing: products with a low hazard ranking are given a green 0-2, products with a medium hazard ranking are given a yellow 3-6, and products with a high hazard are given a red 7-10.
Huggies Baby Lotion with Chamomile ranks overall as a red 8, largely due to the fragrance component of the product, and does practice animal testing. According to the search, ingredients in this product are linked to: developmental/reproductive toxicity; violations, restrictions and warnings; allergies/immunotoxicity; neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and skin irritation – to name a few.
According to EWG, by law, the government cannot mandate safety studies of cosmetics products or their ingredients, and only 13 percent of the 10,500 ingredients in personal care products have been reviewed for safety by the cosmetic industry’s own review panel. For virtually every product on the market, safety decisions are made behind closed doors, guided by an industry-funded panel, without the benefit of peer-review or independent pre-market safety testing.
“Under federal law, companies can put virtually anything they wish into personal care products, and many of them do. Mercury, lead, and placenta extract – all of these and many other hazardous materials are in products that millions of Americans, including children, use every day,” said Jane Houlihan, Vice President of Research at EWG. “Mothers shouldn’t have to worry about what is in the baby lotion they use, and now they don’t have to. The new Skin Deep database provides information on nearly 25,000 personal care products so people can find out for themselves which products are the best choices for them and their families.”
About the author
Julie Hurley is a working mother of two children. She has a degree in journalism from Grand Valley State University in Michigan, and has an increasing interest in holistic living.
She is an Independent Distributor for the It Works product line, which features the Ultimate Body Applicator (www.itworks.net/juliehurley).
Julie is also training for her first 25k in May after picking up running in April 2007. Follow her training journey on her blog at: http://tinyurl.com/37t4yf.