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Miriam Schimmel
Miriam Schimmel
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Potential New Threat to Children?

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Phthalates are chemicals which are used to stabilize fragrances and make plastics flexible. They are typically found in many products including cosmetics, toys, vinyl flooring and medical supplies.

A recent study suggests their presence in baby shampoos, lotions and powders may expose infants to chemicals that have been linked with possible reproductive problems.

The study, which is published in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, revealed elevated levels of phthalates in the urine of babies who’d been recently shampooed, powdered or lotioned with baby products. Researchers studied 163 babies, between 2 months to 28 months old, in California, Minnesota and Missouri and measured levels of several phthalates in urine from diapers. Information about the babies’ mothers’ use of various baby products in the preceding 24 hours was obtained, and the results revealed detectable levels of at least one phthalate. Most had levels of several more, and the highest levels were linked with shampoos, lotions and powders and were most prevalent in babies younger than 8 months.

However, there is currently no direct evidence from human studies to show that harm.

While experts are currently undecided as to what dangers these chemicals may pose, if any, there are environmental advocacy groups which believe they do pose a danger. Further, although there are no restrictions or regulations of phthalates by the federal government, California does limit their use. In October 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill AB 1108 which restricted use of certain phthalates and banned others in infant and children’s products as of January 1, 2009.

The slight catch to the legislation, however, is that these chemicals often don’t appear on product labels because there is no requirement to list individual ingredients of fragrances, which are a common phthalate source. One suggestion is to seek products which are labeled “phthalate-free,” or check labels for common phthalates, including DEP and DEHP.

Industry researchers and advocates agree more research is needed, but at the very least, parents should be made aware of the issue so that they can decide whether or not to take protective action on behalf of their children.