What’s in Baby’s Bubble Bath? Toxins to Watch Out For

These days we think we’ve got childproofing pretty much covered, right? We’ve got the right car seat, the stair gates are up, and we put our household chemicals safely out of reach. It’s no wonder parents are surprised to learn that many questionable chemicals are actually right in the bathwater with baby!
There is no law that requires a cosmetic company to prove that its ingredients are safe before marketing a product, and so it’s not surprising that many chemicals commonly found in baby washes, lotions, shampoos and creams have not been proven safe, and indeed there is a mounting body of evidence that certain chemicals may be harmful. What is still unknown is the combined effect of multiple exposures. Babies are lathered up with as many as 10 different products in a day – soap, shampoo, baby wipes, disposable diapers, lotion, fragrances, and diaper rash creams.
This chemical soup is particularly worrisome in baby products because infants are up to ten times more vulnerable to toxins than adults according the American Environmental Protection Agency, and children receive 50% of their lifetime cancer risks in the first two years of life. Dr.Donald Wigle, author of Child Health and the Environment, writes that exposure to toxins in infancy can cause “structural and functional abnormalities that range from subtle to obvious, immediate to delayed, and transient to permanent.”

Some chemicals to watch out for include:

Pthalates: used in many products including plastic toys, fragrances and lotions, and plastic wrap. Phthalates are suspected hormone disrupters, chemicals that can mimic estrogen and interfere with systems in the body that regulate sexual development, sperm counts and fertility. A 2005 study linked high phthalate levels to feminization of boy babies.

Parabens: used as preservatives in baby wipes, shampoos, bubble baths, and diaper-rash ointment. Parabens are suspected estrogen-mimicking chemicals and studies have linked them to breast cancer and lowered sperm counts. (Moms take note- check the ingredients in your deodorant).

1-4 dioxane: used in many products including bubble baths and body washes. It is considered a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a definite animal carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program. It may be in products that contain the following ingredients or partial ingredient names: “PEG,” “polyethylene,” “polyethylene glycol,” “polyoxyethylene,” “-eth-” (such as sodium laureth sulfate), “oxynol” “ceteareth,” or “oleth.” An analysis by Washington’s Environmental Working Group found 57% of baby soaps may be contaminated.

The good news is that there are many alternative products on the market that do not use these ingredients. It is also wise to remember that babies don’t need to be bathed every day and soap is often unnecessary. Fragrance-free products contain fewer chemicals overall. Instead of using commercial baby wipes consider a spray bottle with soapy water and a washcloth. You might also want to consider cloth diapers, because disposable diapers contain many chemical additives. If you use disposables, consider the environmentally-friendly brands.

The organizations below offer more information and alternatives: – an Ottawa-based company
Arbour Environmental Shoppe – an Ottawa company to research existing products

Further information:

About Gaela Nelson