Keeping your baby away from toxic products

As a parent,  the wellbeing  of your baby would be one of your top priorities, picking out products that explicitly state how safe and gentle it is, trusting the manufacturers  to stick by their claims. But do you know that many of those products you have carefully handpicked because they promised “mild and gentle care for the baby” or to keep skin “soft and smooth” contain ingredients  that even we, as adults, should avoid?

When you line up all your favorite baby products and go through the ingredients list, you are sure to find for instance, SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate) and SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate). Even in adult skin, SLS can penetrate into the heart, liver, lungs and brain. The American College of Toxicology states , “…both SLS and SLES can cause malformation in children’s eyes. Other research has indicated SLS may be damaging to the immune system, especially within the skin.”

So what are these ingredients doing in a baby product? And why should you care?

Children, with their delicate and permeable skin, are much too vulnerable to the effects of chemicals you slather them with. According to Environmental Working Group,

“Through its review of 23 peer-reviewed studies of cancer incidence from the past 50 years, EPA has determined that infants up to age two are, on average, ten times more vulnerable to carcinogenic chemicals than adults, and for some cancer-causing agents are up to 65 times more vulnerable. The Agency also found that children from age two to 15 are three times more vulnerable to carcinogens than adults. By incorporating these factors, the new risk assessment methods show that children accumulate up to 50% of their lifetime cancer risk by their second birthday.”

On top of all this, we know babies love putting all kinds of things in their mouths, including freshly moisturised hands and feet, thus ingesting tiny dosages of chemicals that exist in your baby’s lotion, every single day.

There is even more alarming news about baby products out there if you want to go looking for it. But there is no need to scare yourself. There are simple steps you can take to ensure your baby’s skin is gaining much more than it is losing.

Healthy Child Healthy World, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of children from harmful environmental exposures, has a few rules you can follow:

Buy fewer products and use them in smaller amounts: This is self-explanatory. Using less means you can reduce the baby’s exposure to the chemicals.

Always read the ingredient lists on personal care products: Understand the usual ingredients so you can make informed decisions. Safbaby.com provides a comprehensive list of ingredients you should look out for and WHY, and it is a good place to start off with.

As a quick and general rule, it is good to stay away from these chemicals: Parabens, phthalates (DEHP, BBP, DBP, DMP, DEP), DMDM hydantoin, triclosan, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, DEA (diethanolamine) & TEA (triethanolamine), formaldehyde, PEGs (polyethylene glycol), and anything with “glycol” or “methyl.”

Understand fragrance: Many perfumes and fragrances consist of hundreds of chemicals, many of which are untested for toxicity. Unless the specific ingredients that make up the fragrance are identified and recognizably safe, avoid scented products altogether. So what if your baby doesn’t smell like sweet roses all day long? At least you aren’t feeding him with toxins.

Don’t get tricked by marketing claims: Many terms found on personal care products are meaningless because the language isn’t regulated. These include the terms hypoallergenic, doctor tested, doctor approved, dermatologist tested, dermatologist approved, non-toxic, and no synthetic ingredients, but these do not necessarily mean they are safe. For information on specific labelling claims, see Greener Choices Ecolabels website, which includes information on cleaners and personal care products.

Test new products before using, and always monitor for reactions: Apply a small amount of the product on the inner arm, wait several hours, then check to see if there has been a reaction, and keep monitoring periodically because some allergies take a while to reveal themselves.

Make your own: Check out “9 Better Baby Lotions and Potions You Can Make in Minutes”, which teaches you to use ingredients you might already have in your kitchen to make baby lotions.

Did you know you can also make your own natural baby wipes? Divadiapers shows you how to make a variety of baby wipes, all with different ingredients for different needs.

Many of us love us love using powder for babies, but most baby powders contain talc, a known carcinogen. So avoid using baby powder, and opt instead for this natural baby powder recipe by thesmartmama.com.

Raising a non-toxic baby is challenging but it is definitely worth every effort.

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Vaishnavi

Vaishnavi is an undergraduate environmental engineering student in National University of Singapore. Currently, she is pursuing a research-based study to evaluate the causes and effects of microplastics in Singapore’s seas and coasts. Her interests lie in finding ways of minimising toxicity of everyday products, conservation of biodiversity in Singapore and provision of a safer marine environment for animals. An animal lover, she is a vegetarian and feels strongly against animal testing. Holding the belief that science can also hold answers to the problems it seems to have created, she hopes she can work as a research fellow in the future, trying to find practical ways of fighting environmental problems.