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!
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
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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:
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.