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Hidden Dangers in Baby Products

Hidden Dangers in Baby Products

September 26, 2007 —

When most people purchase products for their babies—from lotions and shampoos to photo books—they assume that the products have been tested and have passed strict regulations to ensure they will not harm their baby.  That can be a dangerous assumption. Not only are regulations weak, but harmful chemicals have been found in a variety of baby products for years. And though the government seems disinterested in forcing manufacturers to make safer products, various studies from independent sources have brought these concerns to the surface.


The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and the Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC) found that baby products often contain three groups of widely used ingredients known as "hidden carcinogens."  These ingredients are either contaminated by carcinogens, break down to release carcinogens, or are precursors of carcinogens.  To make matters worse, infants are about 100 times more sensitive to carcinogens than adults. "Newborn skin is slow to mature, and the outer layer is highly permeable and sensitive to chemicals," said Uwe Stave, M.D., formerly of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Miami.


In 2005, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) released a study in which it had tested sleep products for flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and tested 18 other baby products for phthalates, a chemical that keeps plastic flexible. PBDEs, which have been linked to impaired learning, cancer, reproductive defects, premature birth and early onset of puberty. “Normal brain development is impaired by exposure to toxins, such as flame retardants and phthalates, often resulting in learning and other developmental disabilities,” said Dr. Larry Silver, clinical professor at Georgetown Medical Center and past president of the Learning Disabilities Association of America. “There is an immense disconnect and unacceptable delay between scientific data and public awareness and prevention.” Nine U.S. states have banned the use of some PBDEs in manufacturing, and the European Union recently banned several types of phthalates.


Phthalates are also used in many plastic products to improve flexibility and in personal care products to bind fragrance to the product. People are exposed to phthalates through everyday contact with household and personal care products, as well as through contact with indoor air and dust. The USPIRG has urged the government to reform its policy and demand that manufacturers can not put chemicals on the market without proving they are safe.

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