This article looks at some highly controversial substances that have been shown to be detrimental to a babys’ health.
Phthalates are softening agents added to many toys, lotions and creams for all age groups especially in industrialised countries. Recent studies have shown that when a baby is exposed to these chemicals, even in topical products, that the phthalates and their derivatives are absorbed into the blood stream and also present in the urine. One of the better known effects of phthalate exposure in babies is an underdeveloped male reproductive system. There is an indisputable link between high phthalate exposure either in utero or after birth, and several developmental abnormalities such as those listed below.
Some Recognised Symptoms of Moderate to Severe Phthalate exposure in Babies
- incomplete dropping of the testicles
- reductions in the masculinsing hormone dihydrotestosterone
- reduced distance between the anus and the base of the penis (AGD) – which is used to predict abnormalities in adult reproductive development. The AGD should normally be twice as long in males as it is in females, however studies have shown that significant phthalate exposure to male infants may shorten this measure. The shorter the anogenital distance the more feminised the body in question.
- the development of proliferative lesions in Leydig cells, which are located in the testicles
Mineral oil is a by-product of commercial processes involving crude oil, and when applied to the skin will produce an oily coating. As a moisturiser it is barely effective, because it is so poorly absorbed and does not allow the skin to breathe. This hasn’t stopped many commercial manufacturers from using it in their baby ranges though because it is cheap to produce. Natural emulsions such as beeswax, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil and sesame oil are a much better alternative. Knowing that just about anything that sits on a babys skin, is likely at some stage to enter their mouths via the fingers also should discourage one from purchasing products containing mineral oil.. On ingredient lists you will find mineral oil listed also as petroleum, paraffin or paraffin oil.
Oestrogenic chemicals and derivates in the environment, processed foods and in skin care products are part of the phthalate controversy. So when purchasing any products, be sure to choose those that use natural organic and biodynamic ingredients. These are less likely to contain environmental hormones.
With a better understanding of the ‘baddies’ in commercial baby products you can reduce the risk of toxicity, allergy and discomfort for your baby. In summary, here are some tips to help you select better and healthier products for you and your baby:
- Read labels
- Choose natural skin care products that use organic and biodynamic ingredients, ensuring top quality raw materials that are free of nasty chemicals
- Avoid mineral oils and petrochemicals
- Avoid any products that contain artificial fragrances. Most naturally derived fragrances from flowers and herbs are fine.
- Look for organic and pure products that may also contain the label “Phthalate-free”. Also avoid placing plastic bottles in the microwave, as transmigration of plastics under heat leads to chemicals being passed into the contents of the bottle.
- Patch test new products for potential allergic reactions by dabbing a small amount on the inside of your baby’s elbows.
- Live an organic lifestyle. A recent study showed changing to a biodynamic, organic diet can virtually eliminate all traces of phthalates in the body!
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Male Reproductive Tract Lesions at 6, 12, and 18 Months of Age Following in Utero Exposure to Di(n-butyl) Phthalate , 32; 79 Toxicol Pathol
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3. Chensheng Lu,1 Kathryn Toepel,2 Rene Irish,2 Richard A. Fenske,2 Dana B. Barr,3 and Roberto Bravo3 2006, Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children’s Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides, Environ Health Perspect. February; 114(2): 260–263.
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6. Berthold Koletzko, MD, 2000, Complementary Foods and the Development of Food Allergy, PEDIATRICS Vol. 106 No. 5 pp. 1285
7. AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS, (1997), “Inactive” Ingredients in Pharmaceutical Products, PEDIATRICS Vol. 99 No. 2, pp. 268-278
8. Burks, W, (2003), Skin Manifestations of Food Allergy, PEDIATRICS Vol. 111 No. 6, pp. 1617-1624.
By Su-lin Sze, 2011, Naturopath and Consultant to Weleda, manufacturer of holistic products for mother and baby.