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Chemicals To Look Out For in Your Baby Products


The good news is that you can play safe by choosing products that are free of potentially harmful chemicals - but first you'll have to learn to translate those unpronounceable names. 

Reading product labels

Here's what to watch out for, and why:   


What's it in?

Used to preserve fragrance in shampoos, conditioners, lotions and other body-care products, this chemical is also used in plastic baby bottles.

What's the problem?

Studies have shown that phthalates could cause reproductive birth defects in animals. While their use in baby bottles is being phased out (slowly), they are still used in a range of baby-care products.

Propylene glycol 

What's it in?

Baby wipes and lotions.

What's the problem?

An irritant that causes a skin rashes, this chemical has been found (through animal and other studies) to cause deafness, kidney damage and liver problems after long-term exposure.

Sodium borate 

What's it in?

Baby wipes and lotions.  

What's the problem?

This skin irritant’s effects include redness, itching and pain.

DMDM hydantoin 

What's it in?

Used in many shampoos, this chemical releases formaldehyde into the product to help prevent natural ingredients from molding or spoiling.

What's the problem?

It can cause dermatitis (eczema) and may be linked to cancer.


What’s it in?

Talc is a common ingredient in the most popular baby powders.

What’s the problem?

Inhaling it can cause babies respiratory problems, some potentially fatal.

How to Keep Baby Safe

To protect your baby,be selective about the products you use. You don't have to spend a lot of money on "all-natural" baby care products (some of them aren't so natural). Here are some tips: 

  • Use lotions and soap products sparingly.  Usually water and mild soap work just fine at keeping your baby clean - and safe.
  • Use everyday items you probably have in your kitchen to make your own baby skincare products. For ideas and recipes, visit or
  • Look for baby wipes with aloe; usually they don't have propylene glycol. Or make your own.
  • Avoid products that have fragrance listed in their ingredients. Babies don't need it anyway.
  • When buying organic, look for the “USDA certified organic” mark on the label. This mark means that at least 95 percent of the ingredients are organic and no synthetic petrochemicals were used in the product's manufacture. (Beware of items with “organic” in the title but no certification.)
  • Keep in mind that there are no regulations for the labeling of body care products, including those for babies, so do your research. To look up specific brands, check out

Chemicals in “Chemical-free” products

Many natural products are free of these and other harmful chemicals, but you can't count on it. Recently, some companies claiming to sell “organic” and “natural” products have been sued after they were found to contain ethylene oxide and its byproduct 1,4-dioxane, both of which can cause cancer. Their presence is a result of using chemicals made from petroleum (petrochemicals) to create shampoo, soap and other body-care products. In addition to the risk it poses to your baby, 1,4-dioxane can also contaminate ground water. 

To steer clear of these substances, read product labels and look out for the following names, all of which are associated with 1,4-dioxane: 

  • sodium laureth sulfate-(also known as sodium salt, lauryl ether sulfate and sodium polyoxyethlene)
  • PEG 90M/PEG-90000
  • PEG-8/octaethylen glycol/polyethylene glycol 400 and
  • ceteareth-20 (also known as PEG-20 cetostearyl alcohol, stearyl ether and polyethylene glycol 1000 cetyl).
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