parenting

Dear Mom, Did You Read The Label? #readthelabel

Mom did you read that label? #readthelabel

For every Mom—new or expectant—her baby’s safety is her prime concern–and a lifelong one, I might add.

When I was born, during the 60s, my family did not even think about buying babycare products. My Mom simply went by her Mom’s, and Grandmom’s advice. Baths involved using chickpea flour as the base, mixed with turmeric, and green gram flour.  The fragrance of “sambrani”.  No talcum powder.  Pure coconut oil for a massage. Home remedies made from scratch for ailments. Cloth diapers.

That was then.

Today, we’ve come a long way, when it comes to babycare. Thanks to advances in science and research, there are a number of  popular babycare product in the market. And the new Mom invariably goes by her pediatrician’s advice in which ones are safe to use on her little one.

When my son was born, we continued to use homemade ingredients to care for his hair and skin. The only products we purchased were baby powder, and eventually, soap, and baby oil.  We never thought of reading the labels on these products because we simply trusted them.

But over the years, and especially now, with new births in the family, and a few of my friends becoming Mommies and Grandmommies, reading labels has become a passion.

And recently, while referring a government website for information about a particular ingredient, I was shocked to find that even babycare products can include harmful toxins.

Scary, eh? In fact, for the first time ever, as stated in the Children’s Health Policy Review of May 2008, the federal government formally acknowledged that “children are more vulnerable to the effects of carcinogens than adults”. (Carcinogens are cancer causing agents). 

Did you know that children accumulate up to 50 percent of their lifetime cancer risk by their second birthday?

And everyday baby products such as shampoo, body wash, conditioner, body lotion, and the rest of it, contain traces of 1,4 Dioxane and ethylene oxide—both known carcinogens.

Sounds like a big bad world eh? Bad enough babies have to deal with life’s tough situations when they grow up, so why add toxic ingredients to their woes?

Why, in some forums, I’ve even seen some Moms arguing that children will be exposed to all sorts of toxins anyway, so how can the baby product ingredients make a difference?

Watch this video – an eye opener on harmful chemicals.

True, there are literally hundreds of baby products in the market that claim to be the best. So all the more reason to read the fine print on the label, eh?

However, label reading is not easy unless you know what each listed ingredient means. Of course you can ask Dr.Google, and I can tell you that when I did, I was stunned. Many wonderful brands use cancer-causing chemicals in their products, banned in some countries.

I was horrified to read that if a baby accidentally gulps baby oil, it can not only suffer brain damage, but die a slow death, because of the mineral oil, a carcinogen.

Let’s look at the top ten list of toxins you are likely to see listed on the label. It gets technical—don’t worry if you didn’t major in chemistry—I’ve simplified it for you. Just prepare to be shocked!

Let’s read the label!

Culprit no.1

1,4 Dioxane

To make harsh ingredients mild, they go through a process called ethoxylation and this uses cancer-causing petrochemical ethylene oxide. The result is 1,4 Dioxane, which is toxic for the kidneys, the nervous system and respiratory system. What is ironic is, you will not see 1,4 Dioxane listed on the product label, because it is perceived as a contaminant and carcinogenic. The Organic Consumers Association’s (OCA) study indicates the toxin is present in products with synthetic ethoxylated ingredients, including those with myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth, any other “eth,” or PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol, in their names. Baby products containing this ingredient are likely to have traces of formaldehyde, nitrosamines, phthalates and other contaminants.

Takeaway: If you see any of those “eths” or PEGs, ditch it.

Culprit no. 2

Parabens

And no, this is not your friendly neighbourhood Gujju Aunty. You will find parabens in soaps, baby shampoos, and lotions—and even baby wipes. And you must start wondering why—because parabens can cause breast cancer tumors, reproductive toxicity, hormone imbalance and skin irritation.

Takeaway: If you see the label listing the word paraben, ditch it.

Culprit no.3:

PEG

This family of poly ethylene glycols are in most lotions, creams, and shampoos. This known carcinogenic petroleum ingredient sucks out the skins natural moisture, speeds up aging and invites bacteria.

Takeaway: If you see PEG on your baby product label, you know what to do.

Culprit no.4

Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)

You love to work up that lather on your soap, don’t you? Ever felt curious about how that happened? Sodium laureth sulfate is the harmful ingredient used to give personal care products like soaps, shampoos, and toothpastes the ability to foam. On a baby’s delicate skin, SLES can be harsh. It can affect the eyes, damage the immune system, cause skin inflammation and make it separate in layers. And oh, SLES is also a prominent hero in car wash soap, engine degreaser, and detergents.

Takeaway: SLES is a big no-no. Who uses engine degreaser on a baby’s skin?

Culprit no.5

Mineral Oil

This cheap byproduct from petroleum processing is pretty much like wrapping plastic on your skin. Baby oil is often scented mineral oil. Eww, eh?

Takeaway: Would you wear plastic wrap on the skin?

Culprit no.6

Fragrance

A rather dubious mix of fragrant chemicals give baby powder, baby wash, shampoo, lotion, and diapers their fragrance, which can lead to asthma, and cause nervous, skin and respiratory damage. It can even affect the eyes.

Takeaway: Avoid any product that lists fragrance, perfume or parfum.   

Culprit no.7

Talc

Talcum powder, made from talc is likely to be contaminated with asbestos fibers causing respiratory disease and cancer. According to this USGC study even talc without asbestos is toxic and carcinogenic. Baby powder often contains this powdered mineral, even though it is a lung irritant.

Takeaway: Avoid baby powder that does not list ingredients. 

Culprit no.8

Phthalates

Phthalates are found in fragrances, but they are not always listed. As though that weren’t bad enough, they have horrible side effects such as kidney/liver damage, birth defects, decreased sperm count, and early breast development in girls.

Takeaway: Make sure the label says “phthalates-free” or “no phthalates”.  

Culprit no.9

Preservatives

Baby shampoo and baby lotions contain preservatives such as benzoic acid, which generates benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen related to leukemia and other blood cancers.

Takeaway: Check label for this.

Culprit no.10

Octinoxate

Yes, we must protect babies from harmful UVA/UVB rays. This means any sunscreen used must be free from toxic chemicals like octinoxate, which disrupt the endocrine system, and are linked to endometriosis and reproductive problems.

Takeaway: Avoid any product that lists this.

That was exhausting, but not an exhaustive list. There are plenty more of those toxins out there.

Look at these visuals that list  toxins to avoid in baby lotions, shampoo and wash:

Mom did you read that label? #readthelabel

Mom did you read that label? #readthelabel

I like to follow one ground rule, and that is:  if you see something on a list you can’t understand, or pronounce, simply return the product to its place on the shelf. Do the research before you decide to buy it.

We can’t escape the fact that we live in a world full of toxins and harmful chemicals that invade our lives, the things we use, the food we eat—everything. Even chocolate! I am not saying we must stop living.

What we must do—is know what goes into the products we use. Knowledge is power.

Babies are blessings. They deserve the best start to their lives.

As Jill Churchill says, There’s no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.” I think paying attention to that label is one of them.

So dear Mama, please, please read that label, understand it, make informed decisions for your precious one.

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Shalini R
    November 25, 2016 at 11:33 pm

    Yes! Seriously! I am so glad you wrote about this. I recently came to know that one of the popular brands of baby products here in India contains carcinogens! I was appalled!
    P.S: I have voted for you <3
    Shalini R recently posted…Kerala Fish CurryMy Profile

  • Reply
    Eliana
    November 26, 2016 at 3:23 am

    It can be exhausting and SCARY indeed! But I totally agree with you on the last statement “There’s no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.” We just need to do our best. 🙂 Thanks for sharing all this info! x
    #FabFridayPost

  • Reply
    Lisa Pomerantz
    November 26, 2016 at 5:17 am

    OMG, first, thankfully, the Mrs. and I are obsessive label readers. Go to the Environmental Working Group website to keep up. This stat from you, “Did you know that children accumulate up to 50 percent of their lifetime cancer risk by their second birthday?,” simply stunning. What on earth are we doing to our people and our planet. Oy vey. Thanks Vidya!
    Lisa Pomerantz recently posted…Let the Sun Shine: wordless wednesdayMy Profile

  • Reply
    Ramya Abhinand
    November 26, 2016 at 11:16 am

    An eyeopener indeed. I do read the label but most often fail to understand a couple of ingredients and yes the second reason is I just trust the popular brand. I realise its such a big threat to the child. Maybe the erstwhile methods of our grandmothers is a good way indeed.
    Ramya Abhinand recently posted…Book Review- The Legend Of Lakshmi Prasad by Twinkle KhannaMy Profile

  • Reply
    Shilpa Gupte
    November 26, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    I began reading labels some time ago, when I learnt that they use alcohol in lotions etc under the name of ‘Fragrance’. Appalling, indeed, that they use such horrible chemicals in baby products, too!
    Thank you for this very informative post, Vidya! It so needs to be shared extensively!

  • Reply
    menaka bharathi
    November 26, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Thank you Vidya, for the thoroughly researched and meticulously written post. New age moms surely would benefit from this. It is true that we as children had been blessed with natural products from food to bathing powder. The fast paced lifestyle, teeming advertisements and easy availability of these -so called safe herbal products have made our traditional products obsolete and outdated.
    The Jonson baby powder row was an eye opener to many educated moms and now I find more people returning to our traditional practices. I have always tried to live close to nature and hence make almost everything at home.
    Hugs and love to you.
    menaka bharathi recently posted…Gratitude – The Golden Thread That Strengthens Your HappinessMy Profile

  • Reply
    Kala Ravi
    November 26, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Vidya this is totally scary! I want to take the next flight to the remotest corner and start living in a village hut, go back to old ways of living, seriously! What is the point of progress in science and tech if they are inventing stuff that does more harm than good? You had good old wheat and rotis, but you make and sell bread, once everyone gets addicted to it, they tell you its the worst thing to eat! A confused world with perils at every nook and cranny. Yes, we need to go back to the times our ancestors lived in, simple ways, simple living.
    Kala Ravi recently posted…Ten’s TimesMy Profile

  • Reply
    Sarah Stockley
    November 26, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Wow! Who’d have thought that there are so many chemicals in baby products. I actually prefer using natural things as much as possible, I always use coconut oil on our skin and even use if as a mouthwash. If my children are unwell I often look for natural rememdies. Thanks for the info. Sarah #FabFridayPost
    Sarah Stockley recently posted…Black Friday with PrinterPix up to 75% offMy Profile

  • Reply
    SHILPA GARG
    November 26, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    OMG! So many harmful chemicals in baby products! Scary and shocking. Though we have been using Horlicks and Bournvita since kids, I recently read their labels. You know, Horlicks has wheat flour as its main ingredient. Can you believe that? And Bournvita has malt extract, sugar, cocoa solids, milk solids, caramel along with few Vitamins and minerals. How these sweet and sugary ingredients add to the mental and physical development is something worth thinking. These are just taste enhancers for milk. 😐
    SHILPA GARG recently posted…If We Were Having Coffee… 26th NovemberMy Profile

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      November 26, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      Absolutely right, Shilpa! My Mom would say–the longer the shelf life of a product, the shorter your life. It is very true. In fact, it is terrifying that there are so many brands shouting about the “health benefits” of all their products. Most are loaded with sugar and something to give them months of shelf life. You know, during my school days I used to eat curd rice from rice soaked in water overnight. 🙂

      I am coming over for coffee. ♥
      Vidya Sury recently posted…Your Portable Stress Buster. No Special Equipment Needed.My Profile

  • Reply
    Asha
    November 27, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Very useful info Vidya. Will share this with my friend who have small babies .
    Asha recently posted…A day in the TharMy Profile

  • Reply
    Su {Ethan & Evelyn}
    November 27, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    I’m so glad you wrote this too. I think I eyes were wide opened once I had kids. I had no idea that there are so much horrible stuffs out there! It is so scary! Thank you so much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost
    Su {Ethan & Evelyn} recently posted…Create Festive Christmas Things & MingleMy Profile

  • Reply
    Tuhin
    November 27, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Hello Vidya,
    As technology improves, its negative sides too multiplies. The natural home made items of 60s are any day better than today’s gorgeous looking chemical products.
    I have started to replace almost all the modern household products with our traditional ayurvedic alternatives.
    I think this should be done in case of baby products too.
    This is a brilliant post…
    Tuhin recently posted…Ulcerative Colitis Could Not Stop Shawn from Leading a Positive LifeMy Profile

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      November 28, 2016 at 10:44 am

      Thank you Tuhin! I am truly grateful that it IS possible to go back to what we used to do–in fact it is easier than going out shopping and buying harmful stuff along with what we assume is healthy! I have spoken to many parents about baby products now, and most of them say they are reverting to their home remedies, which are simple. 🙂 Off to read your post about Shawn!
      Vidya Sury recently posted…Practising Gratitude #GratitudeCircleMy Profile

  • Reply
    Carolina Twin Mom /Mary Peterson
    November 28, 2016 at 9:49 am

    Oh Lord, I am trying not to freak out about what I may have used on my children in the last few years….

    I guess the good news is that it is not too late to not further any damage. Thank you for this important article! #fabfridaypost

  • Reply
    G Angela
    November 28, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Very informative vidya, never thought of that baby products could be harmful. Most of the time we buy products looking at the brand… thanks for sharing.
    G Angela recently posted…Counting my blessingsMy Profile

  • Reply
    Birgit
    November 28, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    Well, that’s scary! My hubby uses johnsons baby lotion and I use johnsons talcom powder. I will be looking at the ingredients. Thanks for pointing all of this out. Now I will go over and vote for you. Blessings!
    Birgit recently posted…Thursday Movie Picks-Westerns-I picked this theme!!My Profile

  • Reply
    Birgit
    November 28, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    Well, that’s scary! My hubby uses johnsons baby lotion and I use johnsons talcom powder. I will be looking at the ingredients. Thanks for pointing all of this out. Now I will go over and vote for you. Have a wonderful week ahead.
    Birgit recently posted…Thursday Movie Picks-Westerns-I picked this theme!!My Profile

  • Reply
    Mansi Mittal
    November 30, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Such a informative post and many thanks for sharing this.

  • Reply
    Subha Rajagopal
    December 1, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Scary to read this! We usually go by the brand without looking at the labels.Need to be very careful about this.Thanks for the informative post.

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