6 Toxic Chemicals Lurking in Baby Products


by guest blogger Ava Anderson, natural-beauty expert and safe-cosmetics advocate

According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), “the EPA has determined that infants up to age 2 are, on average, 10 times more vulnerable to carcinogenic chemicals than adults, and from age 2 to 15 they are 3 times more vulnerable to carcinogens than adults. Before the age of 2 babies have accumulated 50% of their life-time cancer risk.”

This is shocking information that every parent needs to know. As a society, we need to be concerned about what our children absorb through their skin, the body’s largest organ. There are numerous ingredients to avoid in a plethora of products, from soaps, washes, powders, and lotions to laundry detergent, dryer sheets, candles, and air fresheners. It’s scary but true that some potentially toxic ingredients and known carcinogens are not even required by law to be labeled on products.

So to keep your baby safe, always read the labels and be mindful of what may be hidden behind typical greenwashing words like “natural,” “botanical,” “pure,” and “free.” And always avoid purchasing baby-care products that use any of these 6 toxic chemicals:

1. Fragrance. The term “fragrance” on an ingredients label often means the product is hiding a chemical concoction whose ingredients aren’t required by law to be listed individually. Manufacturers can legally hide hundreds of ingredients under “fragrance” (or “parfum”). This is called a “trade secret” in the industry. More than 75 percent of the time, if you see “fragrance” listed, it signals legally hidden phthalates (THAL-ates), which are known endocrine disruptors that are linked with birth defects, breast cancer, infertility, liver cancer, diabetes, and obesity. On top of all that, exposure to phthalates during pregnancy is associated with autism and ADHD. Dr. Philip Landrigan of Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mt. Sinai has stated that prenatal exposure to phthalates can cause brain injury and behavioral problems. “Fragrance” is a deal breaker, so its presence rules out most conventional baby products.

2. 1,4-dioxane. A cheap manufacturing process called ethoxylation requires the use of the cancer-causing petrochemical ethylene oxide, which generates 1,4-dioxane as a by-product. 1,4-dioxane is a chemical “known to the State of California to cause cancer” and is also suspected to be a kidney toxicant, neurotoxin, and respiratory toxin, according to the California EPA. You won’t see 1,4-dioxane on any ingredient label, as it’s a “contaminant” of the manufacturing process rather than an intended ingredient. To avoid it, make sure to never purchase or use products with the following ingredients:

  • PEGs. These are petroleum by-products that include polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol, in their names.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). These are detergents that create suds. Both are considered carcinogens and can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane.
  • Chemicals that end in “–eth.” This includes myreth, oleth, laureth, and ceteareth, among others.

3. Formaldehyde. According to the Food and Drug Administration, nearly 1 in 5 cosmetic products contain a substance that generates formaldehyde. The product label won’t tell you that formaldehyde is present. According to EWG, to truly avoid all forms of formaldehyde, you must avoid products with formaldehyde-releasing chemicals, including: DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol ), 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane, and hydroxymethylglycinate.

4. Nitrosamines. These compounds are known carcinogens and can cause allergic reactions and contact dermatitis. Your label won’t come out and say “nitrosamines,” but they can be formed by some of the following ingredients: cocamide diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), and monoethanolamine (MEA). Avoid any product containing these. The U.S. National Toxicology Program published (1998) an animal study showing that topical skin application of cocamide DEA created liver tumors.

5. Petroleum-based products. According to EWG, 40 percent of all baby lotions and oils contain petrolatum, made from crude oil. This petroleum-based oil (also called mineral oil or baby oil) coats your baby’s skin with a contaminated film that doesn’t allow the skin to “breathe”: It clogs pores and slows the skin’s ability to release toxins, which also reduces skin function and normal cell development. Parrafin wax is also a petroleum product—never burn paraffin candles around children.

6. Parabens. Low doses of parabens have been linked to organ, developmental, and reproductive problems. Enough said. So avoid methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, and all other parabens.

These are a few of the toxic chemicals you want to avoid in baby products, and avoiding them is a great start to finding safer alternatives! Beware of taglines like “dermatologist tested” or “#1 brand recommended by hospitals,” as these are, unfortunately, just nifty promotion techniques. At Ava, we like to say, “It’s all about ingredients; the rest is just marketing.”

Ava_Anderson48_ppAt the age of 15, Ava Anderson launched her line of personal-care and home-cleaning products, Ava Anderson Non Toxic. Now 20, Ava is educating hundreds of thousands of American families annually on the issue of toxic chemicals in personal-care products through her line, which now includes baby, skin, hair, body, cosmetics, men’s, candles, bug, home, sun, and pet products. As an undergrad at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Ava actively helps run her large company with 30-plus employees and thousands of Ava Consultants in every state in the nation. Her goal is to force a paradigm shift on the issue of toxic chemicals in products—with your help.


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33 Responses to 6 Toxic Chemicals Lurking in Baby Products

  1. Alice Green October 23, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Thank you for getting the word out. I have been avoiding all of these chemicals for years. I don’t have any babies, but I am allergic to the world. And finding products without any of these chemicals is an endless search. Plus, I can’t make my sister believe that I am allergic to products with these chemicals in them, and she refuses to stop using them. Her house if full of candles and all kinds of air “freshners” which are full of chemicals. And she wonders why she has a lung problem and coughs all the time!! And wonders why I don’t stay for long when I visit her. I am grateful to you and your company for getting the word out so that more of us can beaware and stay away from these harmful chemicals. Thank you!

  2. Wanda Richard October 23, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    Thank you for sharing this very important information. It is crucial that consumers become aware and understand the effects of these chemicals. It’s never too late to start making these changes, but the earlier in life we begin, the better off we’ll be.

  3. Lynn M October 23, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    This is such vital information for everyone, especially pregnant and new moms. A positive, less toxic start to life breeds healthier habits moving forward and we all want to do the best by our kids. With so many terrible illnesses having links to environmental toxins, we really have to take as much control into our hands as we can. Fantastic blog! Sharing with everyone I love and then some!

  4. Lollie Christner-Severin October 23, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    Thank you for such informative information. It is so difficult to avoid these toxins. You are changing the world by teaching people about what is in our everyday products.

  5. Sandi A October 23, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    Thank you for such informative information. As consumers it is so hard to figure out what is safe for us to use and what is not. I’m appreciative of your candidness and your ability to share with us not only what chemicals to avoid but an option to replace them. Keep doing what your doing!

  6. Maria Orfan October 23, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    I feel like my hair is on fire each time I hear “If it’s not safe then it wouldn’t be on the market.”

  7. Mimi October 23, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

    Thank you Ava for sharing such important information!

  8. Kim Hayes October 23, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    Great article. I appreciate everything you are going Ava and I am excited to be a part of your team.

  9. Julia Z October 23, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

    I wish I had known this information before I started having children. I’m so thankful to have truly safe products available and for all you do to spread this message!

  10. Trina L October 23, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

    Thank you for making people aware of what is in their children’s products! Once you know you can’t un-know.

  11. Kimi October 24, 2014 at 1:28 am #

    Thank you Ava for your tireless passion and efforts to educate our families! Although I gathered that babies would be more vulnerable to toxins, I am so thankful to now have specific information to share!

  12. Lynn October 24, 2014 at 10:22 am #

    So thankful we can trust your products to be safe.

  13. Mike Malone October 24, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    Just keep your child in a giant bubble and he’ll be safe, lol.

  14. Laura October 25, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    Thank-you for sharing this important information with your readers. Our babies are the most vulnerable to these chemicals!

  15. Shannon J. Perkins December 22, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    Oh, this is such an important matter that everyone should know and I thank you for sharing this to everybody. These days, it’s really hard to find some products that are safe for our little ones because there are people who sell their product and say it’s safe but the truth is it’s not. Babies should be protected from everything that mothers do and as much as possible they should not be exposed to those harmful materials that some companies put into their baby products.

  16. Sarah L. Dixon January 12, 2015 at 5:24 am #

    Awesome! I now know what products to buy for my baby. Thanks for this.

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