Monday, February 4, 2008

Chemicals in Baby Products

Here's the latest from the Associated Press:

A new study concludes baby shampoos, lotions and powders could expose infants to chemicals linked to possible reproductive problems. The small study published in the journal Pediatrics says elevated levels of the chemicals were found in the urine of babies after the products were applied to them.

Chemicals called phthalates (thowl-ates) are under attack from some environmental groups. They aren't limited by the federal government, but the state of California and some countries have restricted their use. Animal studies show the chemicals can cause reproductive birth defects, but human scientific evidence is lacking.

The chief scientist for the Personal Care Products Council questions the report. He says the chemicals could have come from diapers or other sources. The government says there's "no compelling evidence" the chemicals pose a safety risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the health effects in humans are uncertain.
"Although several studies in people have explored possible associations with developmental and reproductive outcomes (semen quality, genital development in boys, shortened pregnancy, and premature breast development in young girls), more research is needed," a 2005 CDC report said.

According to the Olympian on-line:

"The researchers measured levels of several phthalates in urine from diapers. They also asked the mothers about use in the previous 24 hours of baby products including lotions, powders, diaper creams and baby wipes.

All urine samples had detectable levels of at least one phthalate, and most had levels of several more. The highest levels were linked with shampoos, lotions and powders, and were most prevalent in babies younger than 8 months."

Yikes! I am glad I am bad about putting all the creams and products on my baby. I absolutely love the scents, but am usually in a rush and don't bother. But who knows if they're really harmful. I'm sure there are strong views on both sides of this issue.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


Maria said...

I have really started to conciously use less products and watch the toys, etc I purchase for my child. I do not think we can assume the government has our interst in the forefront of their minds.

You might be interested in checking the EWG's webpage out. They have a database of products-- baby, makeup, all kinds of things-- and their "chemical" ratings. You might be surprised. said...

Here's the environmental working group website maria was referring to.

There is a safety guide to children's personal care products when you scroll down. It's free, but you have to sign up to read it.
Thanks Maria!

Maria said...

Sorry-- I forgot the link.

P.S. Yikes on the poor spelling! I mean "consciously" and "interest."

Maria said...

On both links, below the sign up box, you can click "No thanks, just take me to Skin Deep."

Knight in Dragonland said...

We need to remember that coincidence does not always indicate causation. In this particular study, no harm was identified at all. This was purely an observational study, and it was rather poorly controlled. The urine specimens were collected by literally squeezing the urine from wet diapers, not from bagged or catheter specimens. Children were considered "exposed" if they had used a given class of products anytime within the last 24 hours. The correlations are weak at best.

I agree that there is cause for concern since phthalates have been shown to interact with various hormone receptors and could function as endocrine disruptors. They are also quite ubiquitous components of multiple everyday products, so the potential level of exposure is concerning.

However, most of the data regarding phthalates comes from test tube experiments and animals studies and not from clinical studies in humans. The decreasing mean age of puberty in this country has been pretty convincingly attributed to rising rates of obesity. There is more infertility in this country because couples are waiting longer to conceive. The connection of theses trends (if any) to potential endocrine disruptors is far less clear.

This line of investigation certainly deserves more consideration. However, I feel the level of priority given this matter should be far less than protecting our children against a myriad of other pathogens (influenza, RSV, MRSA, resistant pneumococcus), toxins (lead, environmental tobacco smoke), lifestyle pitfalls (substance abuse, obesity, anorexia), abuses and medical conditions (diabetes, asthma) that have PROVEN harm to children far greater than anything likely to be attributed to phthalates.

Maria said...

While "coincidence does not always indicate causation," I certainly think that people need to be aware of what chemicals are in the products they are purchasing and what those chemicals can do in the human body. Furthermore, I find it increasingly dissatisfying that the US Government allows the use of some chemicals while other governments (such as the EU) have and are banning those same chemicals. Are our babies not as valuable as the Euro-babies? Are our bodies not as susceptible to the risks? Why are phthalates allowed in diapers? In US sold toys? Lotions and soaps? And who is going to volunteer their child (or themselves) to be a part of a study that would need to be conducted in order to validate the concerns of these chemicals?

Having a child has certainly a few things for/to me -- made me even more aware of what is really being used in products and increasingly skeptical of all products.

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