Written by Tenley Haraldson.
As a new mom or dad, ensuring the safety of your littlest bundle of joy is at the top of your parenting list. But from bottles to onesies to cleaning products, there’s seemingly no end to the harmful chemicals in baby products.
This article lays out the most common chemicals in baby products that have been linked to health issues – and why Puracy promises never to use them in our products.
Common Potentially Harmful Chemicals in Baby Products
Commonly used in baby powder to help prevent chafing and calm diaper rash, multiple studies have shown that talc is occasionally contaminated during the manufacturing process by naturally-occurring asbestos deposits.
Aside from color additives, cosmetic products and ingredients aren’t required to have FDA review or approval before being sold on the market. What’s more, cosmetic companies aren’t required to share safety information regarding their products and ingredients with the FDA (aside from color additives).
The Easiest Way to Avoid Talc
To be safe, we recommend using talc-free baby powder to safely soothe your baby’s behind and sidestep chafing issues.
Between 1990 and 2006, more than 260,000 children (under five years old) were treated at ERs for injuries related to household cleaning products.
Bleach exposure can cause reactions like eye irritation, blurry vision, burning throat, chemical burns, and shortness of breath. Bleach is also highly reactive when combined with the wrong chemicals (e.g. ammonia, alcohol, acids), it could cause serious results.
How to Avoid Using Bleach
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There are plenty of excellent ways to thoroughly disinfect household surfaces with gentle yet effective products:
- Whitening clothes without bleach is far easier than you think.
- When used correctly, our hydrogen peroxide disinfectant kills 99.9+% of germs, bacteria, and viruses – all while removing dirt, gunk, grime, and sticky residue.
3. Synthetic Fragrances
When you read “fragrance” on the side of laundry detergents, diaper wipes, or even your own body spray, it’s important to remember that the precise ingredient lists are concealed as a ‘trade secret’.
Synthetic fragrances are far cheaper than plant-derived sources and are often sourced from petroleum by-products. These include substances like benzene derivatives and aldehydes (both known carcinogens), and toluene (a neurotoxin).
How to Avoid Synthetic Fragrances
Stick to fragrance-free products that are especially formulated for sensitive baby skin. If you do choose a scented product, ensure that its fragrance is naturally-derived (like with organic essential oils).
Phthalates (also known as phthalate esters) are artificial fragrance additives that deserve their own special mention. In fact, more than 75% of products with the word “fragrance” on the label contain them. These petroleum byproducts can also be found in many plastic toys and food packaging. Because they aren’t chemically bound to the polymer, phthalates tend to migrate to the substance’s surface – and into our bodies.
Numerous studies have linked exposure to phthalates to a wide variety of health issues, including: hormone disruption, reduced sperm count, and reproductive organ malformation.
How to Avoid Phthalates
Because phthalates are so commonplace, you need to do research and exercise caution when choosing baby products. Select baby toys that are made from medical-grade silicone or natural substances like wood. Also commit to purchasing fragrance-free baby care products with clear ingredient lists.
5. Bisphenol A (BPA)
In recent years, multiple studies have revealed that babies consume a shocking number of microplastics every day. The biggest culprits? Baby bottles and canned foods made from bisphenol A (BPA).
Consumption levels rise dramatically when BPA-based products are heated up and/or scratched. Even exposure at lower doses has been linked to an increased risk of:
How to Avoid BPA
If you stick with plastic, avoid polycarbonate plastics (which may be marked with ‘PC’). Instead, choose polypropylene products (e.g. PP, plastic #5), glass baby bottles, and bottles that are labeled “BPA-free.” Some plastics marked with recycle codes #7 and #3 may contain BPA.
Since BPA resins often coat the inside of food cans, it’s best to either select food in glass containers – or create your own baby food at home. Most importantly, avoid heating plastics in the microwave.
Parabens are preservatives used to extend the shelf life of personal care products. These chemicals have been linked to seemingly innocuous skin irritation to more serious reproductive organ dysfunction and fertility issues. Infant exposure to parabens has also been linked to long-term weight issues during the first eight years of life (especially among female children).
While they’re allowed to be used in the United States, parabens are banned in the European Union.
How to Find Paraben Free Baby Products
Many labels include the phrase “paraben-free”, and you can also check product labels for the following common ingredients: methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben.
7. Tributyltin (TBT)
Occasionally found in the top sheet and adhesive areas of disposable diapers, tributyltin (TBT) is a known cardiotoxic and gonadotoxic substance. It is also known as an embryotoxic and fetotoxic compound, meaning that it can cause serious harm to a fetus.
Environmentally speaking, tributyltin is a terrible contaminant. Not only is it extremely toxic to marine life, but it has also been linked to imposex issues among aquatic animals.
How to Avoid TBT
The simplest way to avoid tributyltin is by choosing organic, non-toxic, and/or biodegradable diapers. Cloth diapers have also become an extremely popular choice by modern parents.
8. Flame Retardants
From car seats to children’s toys to mattresses, you’ve probably noticed that many baby products come coated with flame retardants. However, the CPSC warns that compounds in organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs) are carcinogenic and exposure may be linked to:
- developmental disability
- increased hyperactivity
- advanced puberty
- hormone and/or immune disorders
Children are extremely vulnerable to exposure due to “mouthing” and spending time on the floor. Studies have shown that – compared to adults – children have greater concentrations of flame retardants in their bodies.
How to Avoid Flame Retardants
Choose furniture that’s labeled with “no added flame retardants added”, select products that don’t use polyurethane (including foam), and invest in a quality HEPA filter. Our newborn baby checklist has many great ideas for eco-friendly baby products.
Like parabens, formaldehyde is often added to personal care and cleaning products (as an antibacterial agent and preservative). It’s also found in secondhand smoke and many pressed wood products.
Exposure can cause skin irritation and allergic responses, but more importantly, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen as well as a severe respiratory irritant that can cause central nervous system damage. What makes this ingredient so worrisome is that multiple chemicals can actually release formaldehyde – even when formaldehyde isn’t initially used in the product formulation.
How to Avoid Formaldehyde in Baby Products
The simplest place to start is by banning smoking in your home. When choosing pressed wood and particle board products, select those that are labeled as CARB-compliant (either phase 1 or 2) or NAF (no-added-formaldehyde).
When looking at cleaning and personal product labels, be sure to check for – and avoid – the following ingredients:
- Formic aldehyde
- Methyl aldehyde
- Methylene glycol
- Methylene oxide
Often used to increase foaming in bath and cleaning products, sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfates (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are incredibly good at removing dirt and oil from a wide variety of surfaces.
However, SLS is known to be harsh on sensitive skin and eczema, especially in concentrations greater than 2%. These concentrations vary anywhere between 1%-30% in cleaners and personal products, and bubble baths and body washes can have even higher amounts. SLS can also cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation.
SLS vs. SLES
While SLES was developed to be gentler than SLS, the manufacturing process can actually create 1,4- dioxane, a possible carcinogen.
How to Avoid Sulfates
Choose product labels printed with “sulfate-free” and also be on the lookout for the following ingredients:
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- sodium laureth sulfate (e.g. SLES, sodium lauryl ether sulfate)
- ammonium laureth sulfate (ALS)
- sodium stearyl sulfate
- sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (SLSA)
- sodium coco sulfate
Plenty of sulfate-free formulas exist, but few have the right, satisfying lather. That’s why Puracy worked with our team of chemists to develop coco glycinate, an ingredient that gently foams and cleanses skin.
The Puracy Ingredients Promise
Puracy promises never to use the questionable ingredients above or any other harmful chemicals in baby products. We were founded on full transparency (no exaggerations or omissions), so you’ll never have to wonder if our products are safe for your family and your home: They are and they always will be.