When I was a baby my mother used cloth diapers. Pampers were new, not widely available and very expensive. She used Ivory soap to bathe me and powdered my behind with talcum powder. As far as I know I have suffered no ill effects from the use of these products, then or now, but that is not to say that certain chemicals contained in baby bath products are not potentially harmful. For instance, we now know that talc, as in talcum powder, can be harmful if inhaled. I never used Ivory soap on my babies because it contains lye (sodium hydroxide) and can be very drying to sensitive skin. Many babies are also very sensitive to the chemicals in that ultimate convenience---the baby wipe. In fact, when my son was a baby I routinely rinsed all the "soap" out of his baby wipes because he was so sensitive to it. But, as it turns out, dry skin and rashy bottoms may be the least of it.
We have all seen those names on the labels of baby bath products, as well as our own personal care products; words that seem to contain every letter in the alphabet and are almost impossible to pronounce. Words like di-n-butylphthalate, diethylphthalate or benzylbutylphthalate. But what are these chemicals and why do they show up on the labels of baby bath products? These chemicals are known as Phthalates and they may also show up listed as DBR, DEP, or BzBP or they may not be listed at all since federal law does not require them to be. In most cases they will probably be hidden behind the very vague term of "fragrance".
Phthalates are usually contained in shampoo, lotion, creams and powders as well as many other products. They make plastics more flexible, lotions and creams easier to spread and help to sustain the fragrance in shampoos and perfumes and , yes, baby bath products. They can be and are absorbed through the skin and have shown up in various concentrations in the urine of infants. In fact, one ABC News article cited a study in which 80% of infants tested had phthalates present in their urine. This study also showed that there is possibly a link between phthalate exposure and health problems later in life chiefly in reproduction health. Of course, as with any study, the experts disagree but it is my opinion that it is always better to err on the side of caution. The simplest thing you, as a parent, can do is to reduce the amount of baby bath products you use on your baby which will, in turn, reduce the amount of Phthalates your little one is exposed to.
I personally don't think it is necessary to go completely backward when choosing baby care products. Meaning, I don't think it is necessary to use cloth diapers or quit using baby wash or wipes. But there are some things you can do in order to reduce your baby's exposure.
First, keep in mind that many baby bath products are simply not necessary. Baby lotion and creams are not generally needed to keep your baby's skin supple and smooth. Baby powder, despite its claim as being necessary to keep your baby's bottom dry, may actually do the opposite especially in these days of disposable diapers which do a good job on their own of keeping wetness away from your baby's skin. Baby wipes are very handy and do a good job of cleaning your baby's bottom but some babies are very sensitive to the soap and other chemicals they contain. Use only what is absolutely necessary to keep your baby clean and dry.
There are alternatives to most commercial baby bath products. In the case of baby wipes one way to reduce your baby's' exposure to the Phthalates they may contain is to use them less. One way to do this is to use wet paper towels or even a wet wash cloth when at home and only use wipes when traveling or away from home. If you feel you need to use powder on your baby consider using corn starch instead. It will work just as well and does not contain Phthalates. Baby lotion or cream is not necessary so use it sparingly if at all. However, if you would rather use the commercial brands of baby bath products then the best thing to do is to buy only fragrance free products. Use the least amount necessary to do the job.
There are also several studies presently in progress suspecting that baby wipes could be reducing the testosterone in male babies which will ultimately affect their ability to reproduce as adults as well as making them less masculine. A study in 2008 proved disinfectant affected mouse fertility.
These studies that show a possible link between health problems and Phthalates should not send you into a panic but it is never a bad idea to err on the side of caution and reduce the amount of exposure your baby has to any chemical. Start by reading the labels, be aware and limit your baby's exposure as much as possible.
It is time to turn to common sense! Time to start questioning the affects of chemicals and products created to fill artificially created products like bath products, baby wipes, commercial pet food and baby formula to mention just a few.