Baby powders, lotions and shampoos -- pure as the driven snow right? Not so much. A new study published this week in Pediatrics Journal surmises that toxic chemicals linked to infertility are getting into babies' bodies from their routine use of personal care products.
The chemicals in question are called phthalates. Decades of research on lab animals show that phthalates cause infertility, birth defects and other malformations of the male reproductive tract -- health problems that have (coincidentally?) been increasing in people over the past few decades. Several human studies indicate that phthalates may adversely affect health at levels commonly found in people. Developing babies are at highest risk from these toxic exposures.
So doesn't it make sense that shampoos and lotions should not contain these chemicals? Unfortunately, most do (see 2002 study that found phthalates in 70% of personal care products tested) [PDF], and the chemicals are not even listed on labels due to weak labeling laws that exempt companies from disclosing fragrance ingredients.
So what's a parent to do? The study authors advise: "If parents want to decrease exposures, then we recommend limiting the amount of infant care products used, and not to apply lotions or powders unless indicated for a medical reason."
So that's what it's come to: avoiding baby products in order to avoid chemicals suspected of causing reproductive harm. This, of course, should be a wake-up call to the beauty industry. Parents and women of childbearing age can stop using products in order to protect their health and fertility. Or the billion-dollar beauty companies can start making products without these toxic chemicals.
Until then, consumers are advised to use fewer products, choose products with no added synthetic fragrance, and call the companies to let them know what you think about toxic exposures that put our reproductive health at risk.