The hidden dangers in baby products: Are you paying attention?

Are you unknowingly exposing your children to toxins and putting them at increased risk for a multitude of life-altering and life-threatening diseases? If you are using chemical skincare products on them, then yes, you are.

This is not something that we are actively conditioned to think about. When was the last time you were out grocery shopping, and looked at the back of a bottle of lotion or shampoo for its ingredients? How many of us actually understand what words like sulphates, parabens, phthalates or formaldehyde mean?

At the grocery aisle, we go for established brand names that our mothers had used when we were kids, or we succumb to the wishes of our children who want shampoo bottles with their favorite cartoon characters or superheroes on them. If the product is from an established brand, has words like ‘gentle’ and ‘pure’ and comes in shiny packaging, with an expensive price tag, we trust it. And that’s where we get it wrong.

Research indicates that as much as 60 per cent of what is applied to the skin is absorbed by the body. The situation is more dire for children, as the top layer of a baby’s skin is 30 per cent thinner than an adult, which means they absorb ingredients much more readily.

Research by the US Environmental Protection Agency determines that infants up to age 2 are actually 10 times more vulnerable to carcinogenic chemicals than adults and from age two to 15 they are three times more vulnerable. Therefore, even little exposure during the development ages of children can lead to major health issues such as cancer, infertility, learning disabilities and other serious health problems later in life.

Some of the harmful chemicals in baby products to watch out for are: SLS/SLES, parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde. SLS/SLES, the chemical that creates foamy appearance in shampoos & soaps can cause skin irritations, organ/neuro/reproductive toxicity and cancer. Parabens used to increase the shelf life of products are linked to similar health risks. Phthalates, used to prolong fragrance, are linked to reproductive and developmental problems, as well as asthma and respiratory issues. Formaldehyde is linked to allergies, skin rashes and cancer.

The question then is, if these chemicals are so harmful and their effects are well-documented, why do they continue to be used in products and why do these products continue to appear on our shelves? It’s because the customer is largely unaware of these facts and that gives leeway to the skincare industry which itself is highly unregulated. Companies are not required by law to follow safety standards. Even those brands that claim to be organic, most of them are tested on friends and family but is that credible enough?

In the end, it all comes down to a choice.

For our children’s well-being, do we continue to look at only the typical indicators such as nutrition, diet and physical activity or do we give importance to their exposure to chemicals as well? As a society, we need to be concerned about what our children absorb through their skin, the body’s largest organ. We must make a shift from chemical-based brands to organic brands that do not simply use the word ‘organic’ loosely but have organic certifications from credible bodies to back their claim. As parents, we need to start making informed choices for our children’s sake.