Identifying safe baby products can be a challenge, especially when there are so many products out there to choose from: clothing, diapers, bottles, shampoo, soap, baby wipes. Here are some of the issues to consider when you’re planning on buying baby care products:
- Toxic baby products — Surprisingly, many baby products are formulated with potentially hazardous chemicals. The key to determining whether a product poses a health risk is evaluating whether use of a product results in high or repeat exposures to chemicals of concern. Diapers, for example, do not represent a significant source of exposure to toxics, while products like baby bottles can be if they continuously leach ingredients into a baby’s daily feedings. Intermittently applied products like soaps or shampoos are unlikely sources of high exposure, compared with continuously emitting products like diaper pail deodorants, which can result in significant indoor air pollution.
- Babies are especially vulnerable to exposures to hazardous chemicals — Given their size and the immaturity of their bodies, babies face a greater health risk from exposure to chemicals than adults. Infants breathe more air and have more skin surface per pound of body weight than adults. Because major organ systems are still developing after birth, babies do not have fully functioning metabolic systems for getting rid of toxins as efficiently as adults and can be particularly susceptible to endocrine, immune or nervous system insults. As a result, the same amount of a toxin can have a larger impact on babies than adults.
- Taking precautions to avoid unnecessary exposures — Given the variety of chemical ingredients in baby products, consumers are rightly concerned about how little is known about how these chemical mixtures can affect growing infants and how lax regulatory controls are over baby products. The case for precaution is the strongest with baby products, as no mother wants to treat their baby like a guinea pig and expose them to inadequately tested chemicals.
As is the case with all consumer goods, it’s important to keep product packaging in mind. Baby care products often come in smaller packages or individually-wrapped, forcing a trade-off between convenience and the environment.
Buying Guide: What to look for
Products that do not contain ingredients of high or medium concern, as identified by GoodGuide. Check out the list below for more details.
Products that do not contain controversial ingredients. GoodGuide provides a filter to select fragrance-free products. Often found in baby wipes and hygiene products, fragrance is a catch–all term on ingredient lists that can conceal chemicals tied to allergies, hormone disruption, and neurotoxicity. Look for products from companies that state their products do not contain phthalates or parabens. These compound classes contain specific chemicals that have been linked to health concerns like cancer and developmental problems. Since manufacturers in many baby product categories aren’t required to disclose what their products contain, company marketing claims are often the only information a consumer has to make these selections.
Opt for products that use minimal packaging, or at the very least, recyclable packaging.
Scoring Personal Care and Household Chemical Products
GoodGuide counts the number of ingredients in each product that are categorized as low, medium or high health concern. We then factor in other negative information (such as regulatory restrictions) and any available positive information (such as third-party certifications) to assign product ratings.
To rate a personal care or household chemical product, GoodGuide considers the following attributes:
- A health hazard rating based on the number of product ingredients categorized as low, medium or high health concern;
- Indicators that the product exhibits other negative aspects (e.g., does the product contain ingredients that have been banned or subjected to regulatory restrictions);
- Indicators that the product is among the best on the market in its category (e.g., has the product been certified as safe or healthy by a credible third-party);
- Indicators of data gaps that preclude evaluation of the product (e.g., no or inadequate disclosure of product ingredients).