If you haven't been living under a rock for the past decade, you've likely heard plenty of stories about things like BPA in baby bottles and carcinogens in bubble bath. Ugh – As if parents didn't have enough to worry about. While the concerns are legitimate, in all the panic and pandemonium, some basic science has been left by the wayside – and it causes a lot of unnecessary fear. Today, we're breaking it down for you and doing a little myth-busting to answer this super common question: Are there chemicals lurking in your baby products?
In one word: absolutely. In many more words: it's not as grave as it may seem. Life is made of chemicals. Our bodies are made of chemicals. Water is a chemical. You don’t need to be afraid of chemicals and ingredients whose names look like another language to you. Bananas are made up of roughly 50 different chemicals with unrecognizable names like aspartic and lauric acids. It’s chemistry and the foundation of life. Chemicals are generally good things. Very, very good things.
On that note: If you see a company promoting a product as "chemical-free," they’re preying on a fear of chemicals that is scientifically baseless. Chemical-free is impossible.
On the flip-side of the coin are the truly bad chemical offenders, and this is where you should focus.
In his new book, “Sicker, Fatter, Poorer: The Urgent Threat of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals to Our Health and Future . . . and What We Can Do About It," Dr. Leo Trasande, MD Professor of Pediatrics, and director of the NYU Center for the Investigation of Environmental Hazards says we should focus on avoiding exposure to the synthetic endocrine disruptors that contribute to conditions that affect 99% of us – obesity, diabetes, infertility, cognitive deficits, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and more.
And while it seems overwhelming, he says there are "simple steps we can all take to limit exposure to EDCs, and they neither require a PhD in Chemistry nor break the bank."
For example, when buying baby care products, look at the ingredient label and avoid products with synthetic or undisclosed “fragrance” or phthalates. Trasande says, "a recent study found that choosing personal care products that are labeled to be free of phthalates, parabens, and other endocrine disrupting chemicals can reduce exposure by as much as a third or more." That's a big impact from taking one simple step!
"You can also limit phthalate and other problematic chemical exposures by looking at the recycling number on plastics. Avoid the numbers 3, 6 and 7. You should also avoid washing plastic in the dishwasher, and hand wash with mild soap and water instead. If plastic food containers are etched, it’s time to throw them away. Etching increases the odds of leaching."
We know it stinks to have to worry about toxic chemicals in the products we buy, but there are three bits of good news here: (1) if you were afraid of chemicals in general when you first started reading this article, hopefully we've reduced your stress and worries with your new understanding; (2) a few simple steps can reduce your family's exposure to toxic chemicals significantly; and, (3) with increasing concern and consumer demand, more and more companies have begun eliminating their use of chemicals of concern. (Shameless self-promotion: one of them is us!)
Still have questions about chemicals in baby products? Let us know in the comments and we'll do our best to help!