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 a seemingly endless slew of ingredients to avoid in baby products.
This article lays out the most harmful chemicals in baby products that have been linked to health issues – and why Puracy promises never to use them in our products.
Common Chemicals to Avoid in Baby Products
While this is in no way an exhaustive list of ingredients to avoid in baby products, these tend to crop up on “worst of” lists.
It’s important to note that cosmetic products and ingredients aren’t always required to share their ingredient lists due to “trade secrets,” especially regarding fragrance. What’s more, these companies may not be required to share safety information with the FDA regarding their products and ingredients (aside from color additives).
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.
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. Cornstarch is another excellent talc alternative.
Bleach exposure can cause reactions like eye irritation, blurry vision, burning throat, chemical burns, and shortness of breath. A highly reactive substance, bleach can cause serious results when combined with the wrong chemicals (e.g. ammonia, alcohol, acids), and can cause serious results.
How to Avoid Using Bleach
There are plenty of ways to thoroughly clean 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 – while removing dirt, gunk, grime, and sticky residue.
3. Synthetic Fragrances
When you read “fragrance” on the side of laundry detergents, diaper wipes, and body sprays, those precise ingredient lists are typically concealed as a "trade secret."
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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), as well as 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 naturally-derived fragrances (like organic essential oils).
Phthalates (also known as phthalate esters) are artificial fragrance additives that show up in 75% of products with “fragrance” on the label. 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: sex hormone disruption, reduced sperm count, and reproductive organ malformation.
Ways to Avoid Phthalates
Phthalates are commonplace which means you’ll need to do research and exercise caution when selecting baby products. Because these chemicals are often used to plasticize PVC, it’s ideal to opt for medical-grade silicone or natural substances like wood when choosing baby toys. It’s also good to select fragrance-free items with clear ingredient lists (like all of our baby essentials).
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
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.
If you stick with plastic items, avoid polycarbonate plastics (which may be marked with ‘PC’) and opt for polypropylene products (e.g. PP, plastic #5). Otherwise, look for those that are labeled “BPA-free”
Note: Some plastics marked with recycle codes #7 and #3 may still contain BPA.
These chemicals have been linked to seemingly innocuous skin irritation as well as 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.
How to Find Paraben Free Baby Products
Many labels now include the phrase “paraben-free”, and you can also check product labels for the following: methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben.
Opt for baby products that utilize natural, plant-based preservatives like caprylyl glycol and gluconolactone.
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.
In recent years, chemical sunscreens have come under fire for their use of oxybenzone, especially due to its absorbency rate. Widely used in sunscreens for its effectiveness against UV rays, the European Commission recently proposed an oxybenzone concentration limit of 2.2%. In the US, however, sunscreen manufacturers are allowed to use a concentration of up to 6%.
In addition to the growing evidence that oxybenzone kills coral, there’s growing concern that it’s a potential hormone disruptor in humans. The FDA also determined that oxygenzone:
- Has high rates of topical allergic reactions
- Can be detected in breast milk, urine, blood, and amniotic fluid
- Can be detected topically/in blood for weeks after use
- May affect children much more than adults (due to higher absorption).
How to Avoid Oxybenzone
The easiest way to avoid oxybenzone is by choosing sunscreens that utilize zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (which are also considered ocean-safe).
9. Flame Retardants
From car seats to toys to clothing, 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 routinely shown that – compared to adults – children have greater concentrations of flame retardants in their bodies.
How to Avoid Flame Retardants
While it can be difficult, there are simple ways to avoid flame retardants:
- Choose furniture that’s labeled with “no added flame retardants added”
- Select products that don’t use polyurethane (including foam)
- Invest in a quality HEPA filter.
To get more ideas for eco-friendly baby products, check out this newborn baby checklist.
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 and 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? Ban 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
Sulfates like SLS and SLES are often used to increase foaming in bath and cleaning products – and they’re incredibly good at removing dirt and oil from a wide variety of surfaces.
But SLS can cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. It’s also harsh on sensitive skin, especially in concentrations greater than 2%. Unfortunately, concentrations can vary between 1%-30% in cleaners and personal products, and this can be even higher for bubble baths and body washes.
SLS vs. SLES
While SLES was developed to be gentler than SLS, the manufacturing process can actually create 1,4- dioxane, a potential 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
Look for Plant-Based Foaming Products
Plenty of sulfate-free formulas exist, but few have the 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 Promise
We promise never to use the questionable ingredients above – or any other harmful chemicals often used in baby products. Our company was founded on full transparency, so there are no exaggerations or omissions.
You’ll never have to wonder if our products are safe for your family and your home: They are and they always will be.