Baby Products and Cosmetics – how do they compare?
When you hear the term Green NICU you automatically think the best possible products are being used to care for your child. After attending a webinar with greenNICU.com we have learned about chemicals found in various cosmetics. How do cosmetics and baby products compare? The chemical components are the same. Some chemicals are unavoidable, BUT, you can take steps to minimize your exposure.
Why should you minimize your exposure? Did you know that each person has a body burden? This is the total amount of chemicals present in the human body at any given time. Each human has a unique chemical load depending on where you live, where you have traveled, what you eat, etc… We are exposed by our water supply, our air, and even things found in our home. One billion tons of chemicals are produced every year and approximately 700 of them are new each year.
It is also possible to pass chemicals onto a fetus since the placenta is unable to filter these chemicals. This means a fetus is contaminated BEFORE birth. A CDC report from 2009 found that Americans have on average 212 chemicals in them. A fetus was showing to have an average of 287 chemicals (found in cord blood) with 180 of these being linked to cancer, 217 were neurotoxins and 208 could cause birth defects.
Body care products, which we all use on ourselves and our family, are considered cosmetics. Cosmetics are not regulated by the FDA as thoroughly as drugs, biologics, and medical devices. In fact, cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority. “Due to holes in federal laws, it is perfectly legal for perfumes, colognes, body lotions, shampoos and other cosmetics and personal care products to contain sensitizers, hormone disrupters, reproductive toxicants, carcinogens and other toxic chemicals linked to harmful health defects.” Kathi Salley Randall, creator of greenNICU.com. There are several organizations that rally to strengthen FDA regulations on cosmetics and you can definitely be part of the voice if that is what moves you. For now though, I’d like to move on to the top silent dangers in baby care products.
The three silent dangers in baby care products are: Fragrances, Preservatives and Contaminants.
Did you ever notice that you never see the chemical make-up of any specific fragrance? On bottles it is simply labeled as “fragrance”. These are considered trade secrets and are protected hiding whether they were produced chemically, naturally or even derived from petroleum. In fragrances you will find phthalates. Phthalates are an additive and they are not bound to the things they are added to. This means they can seep out into the body. They are also considered an endocrine disruptor. Another endocrine disruptor is BPA which can be found in cans and bottles (although this is changing), which means it can leach out into our food. Endocrine disrupters are said to interfere with normal development of reproductive organs (especially in males).
Parabens are preservatives added to products to minimize microorganism growth (to preserve things). Parabens mimics estrogen in the body and is found in breast tumors. Parabens to look for: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, benzylparaben. You may even find several of these in one product. Another to look for is Q15 (Quaternium 15). This is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative (FRP) which slowly releases small amounts of formaldehyde to preserve the shelf life of a product.
The No More Toxic Tub Report (from March of 2009) found that many common products are contaminated with harmful chemicals that are not listed on the label. In particular, you should watch for 1,4 dioxane. This is found in products that create suds. I’m sure you thought those suds meant that the product was working and really cleaning, but in reality, it’s a chemical reaction. 1,4 dioxane is used quite often but not required to be listed on the label. There are over 48 common products which include 1,4 dioxine such as: Hello Kitty Bubble Bath, Huggies Baby Wash, Johnson’s Baby Wash, Seasame Street Bubble Bath, Clariol Herbal Essences shampoo, and Olay Complete Body Wash.
What can you do? Basically do whatever you can to minimize your exposure to these chemicals. The best suggestion is to do your research and inventory your products. In fact, here are your two new best friends. www.SafeCosmetics.org is a site where you can find a wealth of information on things we discussed and more. This would be a great site to learn how to take more action. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ has a database of more than 79,000 products. Each item is given a score which will arm you with the information you need to make the right choices for yourself and for your family. You can also choose to donate $5 and receive a free cosmetics guide.
Remember, chemicals absorb into the body faster when your skin is wet, so be extra careful with anything you’d apply on wet skin.
As mothers we have a million and a half decisions to make every day and this is only adding to your list. Ultimately it’s your decision how involved you want to get into minimizing chemicals in your body burden (and that of your family’s). We have given you enough information to get started and to understand how baby products and cosmetics compare. It’s up to you on how Green you want to be.
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