Ruchika Jain is worried about her three-year-old son Aryan. Recently, Aryan developed rashes on his body. At first, Ruchika thought it was a case of heat rashes but even after taking appropriate measures, the rashes did not go away. A visit to the doctor revealed an unusual culprit. It was not due to the heat but a chemical present in the talcum powder that was causing the rashes.
Today, the market is flooded with a lot of baby products. From talcum powder to skin moisturisers, nappy change creams to baby wipes, parents are spoilt for choice. However, did you know that some baby products might not be suitable for a baby? Shockingly, several ingredients used in baby products contain toxic chemicals that might prove harmful.
According to a study done by the US-based non-profit organisation, Environmental Working Group, 82 per cent of products that are promoted as 'gentle' and 'non-irritating' contain chemicals that can cause allergies in a baby. The study also revealed that 36 per cent of children are exposed to cancer-causing ingredients.
Dr Madhuri Prabhu* says, "Of late, as a pediatrician, I HAVE come across newborns with allergic rashes all over the body which seems to subside once the use of all baby products is eliminated. In such cases, natural products like coconut oil seem to be the best option."
Although we all are exposed to millions of man-made chemicals daily, babies are at risk to these chemicals because their immune systems are not yet fully developed. One way we can protect babies is by avoiding baby products that have harmful chemicals.
5 chemicals to avoid in baby products
- Parabens and Phthalates: Are a group of chemicals that are commonly used in the form of preservatives in personal baby care products like baby shampoos and lotions. Parabens are found in most of the soaps, body washes, shampoos and moisturisers for babies. This chemical is a neurotoxin and leads to hormone disruption and skin irritation. Phthalates are another chemical found in baby shampoos and lotions. Use of products with this chemical leads to allergies, asthma and even cancer. Avoid products which list phthalates, DEP, DBP, and parabens, as ingredients in the label .
- Formaldehyde: A preservative used in water-based products, formaldehyde is mainly used to prevent mould from forming. This chemical can be directly added to products or released through another preservative. The problem? Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen (any substance that can lead to cancer), which can cause allergy-like reactions, respiratory problems, headaches, and nausea. Try to avoid products which contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing ingredients like quartenium-15, diazolidinyl urea, glyoxal, DMDM hydantoin, etc.
- Fragrance: Is added to numerous products, both for adults and babies alike. This is to either make it smell good or to mask the odour of the chemicals used in the production of baby products. You might love the smell of your baby’s lotion but remember that fragrance is linked to allergies, eye damage, respiratory problems, skin irritation and eczema. Chemical-based fragrance is added to disposable diapers, baby powder, baby wash and shampoo.
Try to avoid products which contain fragrance or perfume.
- Proplygene glycol: Do you know a seemingly harmless baby wipe might contain harmful chemicals? Many consumer goods, which include some brands of baby wipes contain proplygene glycol, a petroleum-based chemical, which is easily absorbed by the skin and may be carcinogenic in nature. Proplygene glycol can cause skin irritation in babies, if used in high doses. It is advisable to make your own homemade disposable baby wipes or just use warm water and soap on a washcloth. Check the labels of baby products for proplygene glycol, polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polypropylene glycol (PPG) on labels and avoid these for your little one.
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- 1,4-dioxane: Is a chemical found in bath products and liquid soap. It is a chemical by-product, so chances are you will not notice it on the label. 1,4-dioxane has been linked to skin allergies and organ toxicity. Try to avoid products that contain sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds and chemicals listed as xynol, ceteareth and oleth.
Tips for finding safe alternatives
- Purchase from brands you trust
- Go for products that contain natural essential oils, which can smell equally good
- Read product reviews carefully before buying
- Switch to certified organic baby products
You can start by minimising your baby’s exposure to these products slowly. Remember, there is no need to use products on your baby simply because they smell good. Stick to natural products such as olive and coconut oils for your baby's skin. Read labels carefully, minimise the use of baby care products to ensure good health for your little one.
*Validated by Dr Madhuri Prabhu, Consultant Neonatologist based in Chennai.
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