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.”
At 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.