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Preservative in Baby Wipes Linked to Rashes in Some Children

Researchers report six cases where stopping use of wipes resolved skin reaction

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According to the study, the preservative had been used in a wide range of personal care, cosmetic and household consumer products as part of a combination formula that paired it with another preservative called methylchloroisothiazolinone, or MCI.

Over time, the combination was identified as a clear cause of allergic skin reactions, prompting regulations cutting back on its use, the researchers said.

As a result, manufacturers turned to MI as a standalone preservative, based on the belief that it was less likely to cause an allergic reaction.

The problem: the new regulations allowed MI concentrations to rise dramatically, from 3.7 parts per million to as much as 100 parts per million, the study authors said.

"More and more people are using these products and becoming sensitized to the preservative," said Chang, who added that "with increased marketing and popularity of disposable wet wipes for all ages, there will likely be more people developing allergies to the preservative."

What are parents to do? "People have to learn how to read labels, and be aware of this preservative," she advised.

Chang did acknowledge that MI is not the only ingredient in these products that can trigger an allergic reaction.

"There is not one consensus on preservative use in wipes, nor in other personal care products. It's up to the manufacturer which preservative is used, in accordance with regulations," Chang said. "Almost all cosmetics and personal care products will have some type of preservative in them, to ensure stability and shelf life."

One expert said the findings should not send parents into a panic.

"We're talking about a very small proportion of people who will have a problem with MI," said Dr. Carla Davis, director of the food allergy program at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. "So, really, parents should be comfortable using wipes until or unless their child develops a rash that doesn't resolve in the regular manner. But if that happens and the rash is persistent, then the wipes could be a problem and testing should be pursued by a dermatologist."

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