Chemicals used in Baby Wipes

Looking after an infant is hard work and baby wipes are convenient. However, due to the fragility of an infant’s skin, parents need to be conscious of the  preservatives, ingredients and chemicals used in baby wipes and other personal care products. The questions that parents should be asking are – what is in the product? Does my child have skin sensitivities? How good is this product for my child’s health? Is this product harmful to the environment?

Alcohol

Alcohol is a common preservative and defined as a natural ingredient. Alcohol is known to dry out the skin that leads to skin irritants such as eczema, allergies and hormone imbalances. Due to an increase of awareness and concern for infant-care, alcohol is used less in infant products. Variations of alcohol can be found under the names cetyl, stearyl, cetearyl, or lanolin.

Bleach

Bleach is used to whiten household goods, such as baby wipes. It is used as disinfectant that can remove or lighten colour and can be used on baby wipes. Bleach in large amounts can be corrosive and deadly. The lye, also known as caustic soda, reacts to the fats and oils on your skin. It can increase the chances of asthma and allergies. A study published in occupational & environmental medicine suggests exposure is associated with increasing the change of childhood respiratory illness and other ailments.

Bronopol & DMDM hydantoin 

A preservative that is a skin, eye and respiratory irritant. Over time this preservative has been found to release formaldehyde, and when released into rivers and oceans, is very toxic to aquatic life. This can get into the water through landfill waste which slowly erodes the chemicals in baby wipes which can leak into the soil and surrounding waterways.

Butylphenyl methylpropional

A synthetic fragrant ingredient that has a strong floral scent. It must be listed on the packaging if the product contains more than 0.01% of the chemical. This also means that it needs to be rinsed off the skin because it is a chemical that can cause irritation.

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is one of common chemicals in baby wipes that is used to maintain shelf life, but in very small amounts that usually aren’t harmful to people, unless they have skin sensitivities. The main danger of formaldehyde is being inhaled through gas or air. However, 60 percent of chemicals can be absorbed by the body. Formaldehyde is known to trigger rashes and inflammation that are dose dependent. Formaldehyde can be hidden under the names of methylene glycol, methanal, oxomethane, formalin and more. (link).

Fragrance

Often contains many synthetic chemicals such as phthalates. Phthalates are used to soften PVC plastic and solvents that can damage internal organs such as the reproductive system, liver, kidney and lungs. “Fragrance-free” doesn’t necessarily mean the product doesn’t have a smell because it can be scented with other additives such as essential oils. Unscented products use fragrance , or masking agents to cover other smells, which are typically made of phthalates (link). Be cautious of the terminology around fragrance, and if you are susceptible to skin sensitivities, the ‘fragrance-free’ label can indicate essential oils have been used to naturally perfume the product.

Iodopropnyl Butylcarbamate 

Another preservative that easily penetrates the skin and has been linked to allergic responses. The chemical is thought to be harmful and can cause skin irritation.

Lanolin

Used as an emollient to lubricate the skin and preserve moisture. It also prevents water-loss due to its high-fat content. Generally considered safe, it is worth noting that the incidence of allergies is increasing with children that are predisposed to eczema reactions, termed lanolin allergy, due to being repeatedly exposed to lanolin.

Methylisothiazolinone 

A common chemical in baby wipes to limit bacterial growth that has been linked to allergic reactions. In high concentrations it has been known to burn and irritate the skin membrane.

Parabens 

Parabens are the most widely used preservative within personal care. They are also listed as fragrance ingredients. They can be absorbed through the skin. Parabens are also known under the name of ethylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, and isobutylparaben. Parabens are believed to penetrate the skin, remain within the tissue and disrupt hormone function, however, ‘paraben-free’ has been a buzz word through the health and beauty industry, used as a marketing tool and ‘green-washing’ tactic to position the product as being better for you. This is why it’s important to read the label because parabens are disguised under many names and may be replaced with another chemical that acts as a preservative, that can have similar effects to this chemical in baby wipes.

Phenoxyethanol 

A preservative used as a substitute for parabens. Side effects are mild that include irritation of the skin, eczema and other allergic reactions. Phenoxyethanol is absorbed orally and through the skin. This is harmful to infants and their central nervous system function. Exposure can be through breast milk and baby wipes.

Potassium Sorbate 

A mild preservative commonly found in food and personal care products. In mico-doses, potassium sorbate is fine to eat, however it has been known to cause skin allergies. Sorbates are commonly used because they are water-soluble. This is important to note because the skin of an infant is so delicate and in large doses, even mild preservatives can cause allergies.

Potassium Benzoate 

A mild and natural preservative that is widely used for preserving food that inhibits bacteria, mould and yeast. Potassium Benzoate can cause skin or scalp irritations when this chemical is used in baby wipes

Triclosan 

An antibacterial and antifungal agent that reduces or prevents bacterial contamination used in anti-bacterial wipes. This is important to note because parenting is hard and wipes are convenient, even if it is using the wrong type of wipe as a substitute in the event of being low in baby wipes. This can increase the chance of children developing eczema, asthma and allergies.

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