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Harmful Chemicals & Ingredients to Avoid in Baby Bath Products

by Tamara Laschinsky

Many consumers are unaware of the ingredients in their babies’ bath products and the possible health risks involved. Sixty-one percent of bath products, tested by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), were positive for both 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde: carcinogenic byproducts. Other harmful ingredients found in baby bath products are fragrances, peg’s and quaternium-15.

How Do 1,4 Dioxane and Formaldehyde Get Into Baby Bath Products


The manufacturing process of bath products often yields byproducts. Two of these byproducts are 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says 1,4 dioxane is a probable carcinogen and the same is said for formaldehyde.

Labeling regulations do not require byproducts to be put on the label and most often they are not listed. While there are methods manufacturers can implement to remove a byproduct like 1,4 dioxane, it is usually not done as the study results have shown.


Dangers of Fragrance in Baby Bath Products


Most products on store shelves offer a wide array of fragrances. Some fragrances are soft, designed to calm baby down, others are more crisp and refreshing. These fragrances are mainly synthetic chemical compounds and they raise a few health concerns.

The EWG lists fragrance at the top end of their toxicity scale. With 10 being the highest level of toxicity, fragrance ranks an eight. Fragrance is a human immune system intoxicant as well as having neurotoxicity effects.

The Department of Dermatology at the Hospital General Universitario in Spain conducted a study aimed at fragrances and allergies. They found 9.3% of their subjects tested positive for an allergy to fragrance. Allergy symptoms from fragrances can include dermatitis, headaches, nausea, respiratory issues and skin sensitivity.


How PEGs in Baby Bath Products are Harmful 


Used as a cleansing agent, Peg ingredients have many health concerns and contamination concerns. Peg-80 sorbitan luarate for example is not safe for use on broken skin and has shown to cause skin irritation and has reproductive effects in high doses.

Contamination concerns are also present with this ingredient as 1,4 dioxane may be present as a result of the manufacturing process. 1,4 dioxane is carcinogenic in animals and anticipated to be carcinogenic in humans according to the U.S. National Toxicology Program.


Quaternium-15 in Baby Products is a Health Concern


Used as a preservative, quaternium-15 is a known human immune system toxicant as well as a skin toxicant. Animal studies have shown reproductive effects at high doses and cell mutation has been present as well. High doses of quaternium-15 have also shown neurological effects and endocrine disruption in animal studies.

How to Avoid Harmful Ingredients in Baby Products


Consumers can avoid harmful ingredients best by understanding how to read labels. Recognizing the ingredient names and alternate names will assist the buyer in making safe choices for baby when buying bath products.

Labels will also include warnings such as “Keep out of reach from children”, and “Use only with Adult Supervision.” Some warnings even advise not to use product if any allergies or asthma is present or suspected as breathing problems may occur. Products with these warnings contain ingredients that have a moderate to high level of health concern attached to them.

Fragrance free products are available as well as natural products found often at specialty stores. If a consumer is unsure he or she can research the product and its ingredients at the EWG, FDA and CDC for more information.

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