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Baby Shampoo Awash in Chemicals?

Use of Some Infant Products Linked to Higher Levels of Phthalates in Babies, but Health Risks Disputed

What Are Phthalates? continued...

Every baby in the study had detectable levels of at least one phthalate in their urine, and four out of five had detectable levels of seven or more phthalates.

Sathyanarayana tells WebMD that the use of baby lotion was associated with the strongest increase in phthalate concentrations in babies 8 months and younger, and the use of lotions, shampoos, and powders was associated with a roughly fivefold increase in concentrations.

The observed association between use of the baby care products and phthalate exposure was strongest in younger babies -- those who were eight months old and younger at the time of the study.

The study is published in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Other Experts Weigh In on Phthalates

In a news release, Bailey noted that only one of the seven phthalates included in the new study is actually in baby care products.

That is what a 2006 FDA study of phthalates in cosmetics found.

"For this reason, we question the validity of the alleged link between the use of baby personal care products and the presence of phthalates in infants," he notes.

In an interview with WebMD, Bailey adds that this phthalate -- diethyl phthalate (DEP) -- is used in very low levels, as a component of fragrance, and has not been linked to reproductive or endocrine disturbances in animal studies or any health issues in humans.

Phthalates researcher Kim Boekelheide, MD, PhD, agrees that the available research does not implicate the DEP metabolite monoethyl phthalate (MEP) in endocrine disruption.

Boekelheide is a professor of medical sciences at Brown University. He was not involved with the University of Washington study.

"It is important to point out that not all metabolites of phthalates are of similar concern," he tells WebMD.

In a separate news release, a spokeswoman for the American Chemistry Council says the new study adds little to the debate about phthalate safety, failing "to provide meaningful or useful data."

Marian Stanley of the ACC notes that the study's recommendation to limit the use of infant care products is not justified by the findings.

"We believe that there is potential value in the study of metabolized phthalates. But we take great exception to any effort to draw unfounded conclusions that suggest human health risks are associated with the mere presence of very low levels of metabolized phthalates in urine," she says, adding that, "In 50 or more years of use, no reliable evidence has ever been found that phthalates, either alone or in combination, cause negative health effects in humans."

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