It seems phthalates are cropping up everywhere. A recent article published here, When Getting The Lead Out Is Not Enough, highlighted some of the major health concerns linked to phthalates. Parents by now have heard about the incidence of this toxic substance in toys and baby accessories. Now it looks like we have a new worry.
In the February issue of the journal, Pediatrics, researchers found a link between use of baby skin care product and phthalates.
Phthalate exposure is widespread and variable in infants. We found that mothers’ reported use of infant lotion, infant powder, and shampoo was significantly associated with MEP, MMP, and MiBP urinary concentrations. This association was strongest in infants who were younger than 8 months. In addition, we found a relationship between phthalate concentrations and the number of products used.
The study surveyed a mix of mothers of children born between 2000 and 2005 and asked about usage of powder/talc/cornstarch, lotions, diaper creams and shampoos, as well as, plastic toys and pacifier use. Almost all of the mothers used baby wipes and about half used baby shampoo.
The result: the more products that parents used on their babies, the higher the concentrations of phthalates found in their urine, leading to the hypothesis that phthalates enter children’s bodies not only when substances containing this chemical enter through their mouths but also through their skin.
We found a strong association between several phthalates and infant care products that are applied dermally and therefore conclude that this is a major source and route of exposure for infant phthalate exposure, but phthalates from these products may also be ingested orally and inhaled.
The study did not ask what brands of products were used on the infants and, interestingly, did not differentiate between such natural products as cornstarch and processed products such as talc. I’d be interested in hearing from manufacturers of natural baby care products for their take on this study.
In the meantime, you can check The Environmental Working Group’s database of skin care products to fine those that are safest for baby’s skin.