Chemical Linked To Reproductive Harm Is Getting Into Babies From Shampoo, Lotion, Powder

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The use of powder, lotions and shampoo on infants markedly increased the levels of phthalates found in the babies' urine, according to a new study by University of Washington researchers published today in Pediatrics Journal.

In animal studies, phthalates cause infertility, birth defects and other malformations of the male reproductive tract. Several human studies also indicate that phthalates may adversely affect male reproductive function at levels commonly found in people. Young infants and fetuses are most vulnerable to the potential adverse effects of phthalates.

According to the new study, lotions, powders and shampoos "may contribute significantly to phthalate body burden" in infants. "If parents want to decrease exposures, then we recommend limiting the amount of infant care products used, and not to apply lotions or powders unless indicated for a medical reason," the researchers wrote.

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Previous studies show that a high majority of fragranced personal care products contain phthalates. A 2002 study found phthalates in more than 70% of products tested, including shampoo, deodorant and perfume. The chemicals were not listed on labels.

The European Union bans some phthalates from cosmetics and toys, and California banned the chemicals from baby toys - but phthalates are legal to use in personal care products sold in the United States, and there are no requirements to label products for phthalate content.

"Parents have enough to worry about. They shouldn't have to also worry about chemicals linked to infertility getting into their babies from baby products," said Charlotte Brody, RN, executive director of Commonweal, an environmental health research and education center. "Companies know how to make products without phthalates and that's what they need to do."

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics strongly urges companies to immediately reformulate to remove phthalates from all personal care products for children and adults, particularly women of childbearing age. The campaign is also working to pass laws that give FDA the power to regulate the cosmetics industry to ensure safe products.

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