US researchers have found that baby care products are a source of phthalates, a chemical component made by man which may affect the children’s’ ability to reproduce in the future. Baby care products like shampoo, talc and lotion have all phthalates within their components. Exposure of children to these products makes them vulnerable to the phthalate chemical compound. Phthalates was found in the urine of children who used baby care products.
Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York, carried out the study, and it has been published in leading medical journal Pediatrics. The study was led by pediatrician Sheela Sathyanarayana, MD.
More than 160 babies born between 2000 and 2005 participated in a study to evaluate the presence of phthalates and phthalates metabolites present in their body. The babies’ urine was taken and the phthalates and phthalates metabolites was analyzed. Also, mothers were asked in a questionnaire about the product or products that babies were exposed 24 hours to prior to the phthalates analysis. Questions included what type of products and anything that has been applied to the baby’s skin (shampoos, lotions, creams, etc)
More specifically the study found:
*81 per cent of children had 7 or more phthalate metabolites in their urine
*a statistical analysis linked (significantly) levels of monoethyl phthalate and monomethyl phthalate and Exposure to baby lotion
*Also, the statistical analysis linked (significantly) levels of monoisobutyl phthalate and Exposure to baby powder and baby shampoo.
*as expected, if baby was exposed to more baby products, more associations to phthalates and phthalates metabolites were found
*younger babies (less than 8 month-old) had stronger associations to phthalates and phthalates metabolites
We do not know the effects phthalates on human health. However, there is growing scientific evidence (animal studies) that is suggesting that phthalates and phthalates metabolites may affect the development of the reproductive system. There are some limited studies on the effect of phthalates and phthalates metabolites made in humans that are pointing out to the harmful effects of these chemical compounds.
According to the study led by Sathyanarayana, one way to reduce children’s exposure to these chemicals would be to limit the use of products such as lotions, baby powder and shampoos. I would go farther and say I would eliminate the use of these products and aim for using phthalates free products in children.
Although, manufacturers are not required to show the phthalate content of personal care products on the package or label in the US we hope that in the future these manufacturers will work in developing phthalates free products.
Sathyanarayana and colleagues. 2008. “Baby Care Products: Possible Sources of Infant Phthalate Exposure. Pediatrics, Vol. 121 No. 2, pp. e260-e268. URL: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/121/2/e260