Baby Shampoo Awash in Chemicals?
Use of Some Infant Products Linked to Higher Levels of Phthalates in Babies, but Health Risks Disputed
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 4, 2008 -- New research suggests a link between the use of baby
lotions, powders, and shampoos and higher levels of potentially harmful manmade
chemicals known as phthalates in infants.
Researchers reported that babies exposed to all three products had levels of
three different phthalate metabolites that were five times higher than babies
whose mothers reported using none of the products.
All the infants in the study had evidence of at least one phthalate
metabolite in their urine, even if they had no exposure to baby lotions,
powders, or shampoos.
And the baby products were not tested, so it was not clear if they actually
contained phthalates or if their use contributed to the phthalate levels seen
in the babies.
But researcher Sheela Sathyanarayana, MD, MPH, of the University of
Washington, Seattle tells WebMD that the strong association between use of the
baby products and higher phthalate levels suggests that the products may be an
important source of exposure.
"We don't know the long-term health effects of (phthalate) exposure, but
if parents are concerned they need to decrease their exposure to these
products," she says. "You really don't need to use them on newborn
A spokesman for the cosmetic industry called the new study methodologically
flawed, adding that there is no evidence that baby lotions, powders, and
shampoos pose even the slightest risk to babies.
"Their recommendation that parents not use these products is simply not
supported by the science," Personal Care Products Council chief scientist
John Bailey, PhD, tells WebMD. "It just doesn't make any sense."
What Are Phthalates?
Phthalates are commonly added to plastics to soften them, but several are
also widely used in cosmetic products to stabilize fragrances.
They are rarely listed as ingredients on cosmetic labels, however, because
the FDA does not require the listing of the individual components of
Choosing unscented beauty products is no guarantee that they will be
phthalate-free, though, because these products often contain masking fragrances
that may contain the chemical.
Animal studies have linked some, but not all, phthalates to reproductive
development and endocrine problems, and several recent studies in babies
suggest that the same thing may be true in humans.
To examine whether the use of baby personal care products might be a source
of phthalate exposure in babies, Sathyanarayana and colleagues measured urine
samples from 163 babies between the ages of 2 months and 28 months for exposure
to nine metabolites from seven different phthalates.
The babies' mothers also filled out questionnaires asking about their use of
baby personal care products within the past 24 hours.
The researchers concluded that use of baby powders, lotions, and shampoos
was strongly associated with higher phthalate levels, while use of baby wipes
and diaper creams was not.