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Baby wipes are super convenient. With baby wipes, you don’t have to go through washing baby every time you change her diaper. You could use a wet cloth, however, you would need many washcloths and need to do laundry. Therefore, baby wipes are an essential item that you need every day. Baby wipes are used to wipe baby’s sensitive skin. Is it safe? It makes sense to make sure baby wipes are not made of toxic ingredients. Should you be looking for non-toxic baby wipes? Surprisingly, many baby wipes contain toxic ingredients. They contain chemicals that are used as fragrance mixes, preservatives, or penetration enhancers. In addition, some toxic ingredients are not even listed on the product and they are hidden from consumers. Let’s take a look at what toxic ingredients to avoid in baby wipes.
Toxic Ingredients To Avoid In Baby Wipes
Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical, known to cause cancer, damage central nervous system or reproductive health. It can be absorbed into the body by inhalation, by the skin or by ingestion. (read Medical Management Guidelines For Folmaldehyde.) It can be used as a preservative in some foods and in products, such as medicines or and cosmetics. Sometimes, a product will not contain formaldehyde as an ingredient but will contain formaldehyde releasing chemicals. Often cosmetics, soaps, baby wipes, lotions, shampoos, cleaning products and sunscreens will contain formaldehyde releasing chemicals as preservatives. Therefore, unless you know what these chemicals are, you won’t know these products release formaldehyde. (read What Is Formaldehyde?)
Formaldehyde releasing chemicals that are used as preservatives in products are as follows.
- Tosylamide/Formaldehyde Resin
- Diazolidinyl urea
- 1,3-dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin (or DMDM hydantoin)
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
- DMDM Hydantoin
- Polyoxymethylene Urea
Fragrance (Perfume or Parfum)
Fragrance mixes often contain many synthetic chemicals including phthalates. Phthalates are known to be endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors interfere with our endocrine system and can cause lowered fertility and an increased incidence of endometriosis, and some cancers. However, fragrance can be listed as just ‘fragrance’ and phthalates don’t have to be listed on the baby lotion as an ingredient. Manufacturers do not have to disclose fragrance or perfume (or parfum) ingredients since ingredients can be considered as a trade secret. Therefore, as a consumer, you don’t know what synthetic chemicals have been added to fragrance mixes. Phthalate is just one ingredient that is commonly used for fragrance. The phthalate commonly used in fragrance products is diethyl phthalate.
One thing you should know about scents is that ‘Fragrance-free’ doesn’t mean the product doesn’t have a smell. It just means fragrance wasn’t used in the product but it may have been scented with other additives such as essential oils or fruit/flower distillate waters. ‘Fragrance-free’ won’t have tons of chemicals including phthalates so it is a good thing. However, if you are allergic to fragrance, it is possible that you can get allergy reactions to essential oils as well. Therefore, if you have an allergy, keep in mind that there may be other scent added to the product when you see ‘fragrance-free’. On the other hand, ‘unscented’ doesn’t mean toxic chemicals are not used and it is safe. Usually unscented products use fragrance agents to mask other smells. Typically, these masking fragrance agents are made of phthalates. Therefore, if you are choosing between the two, ‘fragrance-free’ will be the one that you want.
Parabens are used as preservatives in many cosmetic products to stop the growth of fungus and bacteria. They can be absorbed through skin. They mimic estrogen and disrupt hormone function. They have been detected in breast cancer tissues so there is a concern that they may be linked to breast cancer. They can be listed as ethylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, and isobutylparaben. (read Parabens.)
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent and it is used as a preservative. It can pass through skin and disrupts hormone function or causes allergies. There are some concerns that Triclosan is linked to birth defects or cancer. When triclosan breaks down, it turns into dioxin. Dioxin is a carcinogen. (read FDA Finally Bans Toxic Triclosan From Antibacterial Hand Soaps.)
Propylene glycol is a form of mineral oil and it is petroleum-based. It is used as a a penetration enhancer. A penetration enhancer helps other ingredients penetrate more deeply into skin. Therefore, chemicals can get rapidly absorbed by the skin. Propylene glycol can also enter the body by breathing air that contains it. It is dangerous for children under 4 years old, pregnant women or people with kidney dysfunction. They are not able to eliminate propylene glycol in the body so it will be harmful to their health. Propylene glycol also causes allergic reactions or skin irritation. It can be also listed as methyl glycol, 1,2-dihydroxypropane, 1,2-propanediol, and trimethyl glycol. (read Darkside of Propylene Glycol and Propylene Glycol: The Complicated Additive With Potentially Dangerous Side Effects.)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)/ Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a surfactant or a detergent that helps to clean in baby wipes. It can be listed as sodium salt sulfuric acid, sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, aquarex me or aquarex methyl. It comes from coconuts, however, this chemical is anything but natural since chemicals are used to produce it.
Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is similar to sodium laurel sulphate but milder. It is made by putting sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) through a process called, ‘ethoxylation’. In the ethoxylation process, ethylene oxide is added to create sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Ethylene oxide is a known human carcinogen. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) also gets contaminated with 1,4-dioxane which is a by product of this manufacturing process. 1,4 dioxane is a possible human carcinogen.
In addition, when sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is mixed with triethanolamine (or T.E.A) during processing, NDELA (N-nitrosodiethanolamine) is formed. NDELA (N-nitrosodiethanolamine) is nitrosamine, a known carcinogen. There are about 16000 studies talking about toxicity of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can cause organ toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, irritation of the skin and eyes, possible mutations and cancer. (Read Deadly and Dangerous Shampoos, Toothpastes, and Detergents.)
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs) are penetration enhancer and they are petroleum-based. They help skin to easily absorb the product including harmful ingredients. During manufacturing processes, PEGs may be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Ethylene oxide is a known human carcinogen and and 1,4-dioxane is a possible human carcinogen. Ethylene oxide is also classified as a developmental toxicant. 1,4-dioxane can be removed from the product during manufacturing process. However, manufacturers may not go through that process and consumers can not know whether removing has been done or not. Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs) are especially toxic to people who have damaged skin. As an ingredient, it is listed as PEG, usually followed by a number. (read The Dirty Dozen: PEG Compounds and their contaminants or Dangers of PEG Compounds in Cosmetics.)
Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is used as a preservative. It makes a product last for a long time. In recent two laboratory studies, the Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) caused brain damage to rat’s brain cells. Surprising thing is that the rat was exposed to MIT only for 10 min. Another study found that methylisothiazolinone (MIT) caused dermatitis. MIT is also linked to cause allergic reactions. (read Ingredient Watch List: Methylisothiazolinone)
Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate (IPBC)
Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate (IPBC) is used as a preservative. It prevents bacterial growth and makes product last for a long time. It penetrates skin and get absorbed by the skin. It can cause allergic contact dermatitis and it may also has adverse effects on the immune system. It is acutely toxic by inhalation so it shouldn’t be used in inhaled products. In New Zealand, it is banned to use for children under 3 years, except below certain levels in bath products. It can be listed as IBP, IPBC, Butyl-3-iodo-2-propynylcarbamate, Carbamic acid, Glycacil®, IODOCARB® or Germall®Plus. (Read Allergy To Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate.)
Ingredients Of Baby Wipes Examples
Baby wipes are often marketed as being ‘pure’, ‘sensitive’, ‘mild’, ‘gentle’, ‘hypoallergenic’ or ‘dermatologically tested’. However, these are only marketing words. It doesn’t mean those baby wipes are non-toxic baby wipes. Baby wipes saying ‘sensitive’ on packaging can still have toxic ingredients. The best way to find out if baby wipes are safe is to read the ingredients on the product. Let’s take a look at ingredients in the following two baby wipes.
PAMPERS SENSITIVE BABY WIPES
Pampers Sensitive Baby Wipes have contamination concerns of Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs) which may have been contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane.
EWG’s Skin Deep Score: 2
Water, *Citric Acid, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sodium Citrate, Sorbitan Caprylate, Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexyglycerin, Sodium Citrate, *Sodium Benzoate, Disodium EDTA, Bis-PEG/PPG-16/16 PEG/PPG-16/16 Dimethicone, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Xanthan Gum, Bisabolol, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice
Toxic Ingredients In Pampers Sensitive Baby Wipes:
- Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) – (Skin Deep score of 3)
Pampers Sensitive Baby Wipes contain polyethylene glycols (PEGs) as highlighted above. Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs) are penetration enhancer and they are petroleum-based. As an ingredient, it is listed as PEG, usually followed by a number. During manufacturing processes, PEGs may be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Ethylene oxide is a known human carcinogen and and 1,4-dioxane is a possible human carcinogen. Ethylene oxide is also classified as a developmental toxicant. 1,4-dioxane can be removed but not all manufacturers remove 1,4-dioxane from the product. Therefore, consumers don’t know if the removing has been done during manufacturing process. Therefore, it is best to avoid this ingredient from baby wipes.
- Benzyl Alcohol (EWG’s Skin Deep score of 5)
Benzyl alcohol is classified as expected to be toxic or harmful by Environment Canada Domestic Substance List. There are moderate concerns of organ system toxicity (non-reproductive). It also has been associated with contact allergy. It is especially dangerous for young infants. Researchers found that the alcohol’s toxic effects were enhanced in very small infants. It can cause convulsions, respiratory failure, paralysis and hypotension. It is now recommended that benzyl alcohol not be used with infants. (read Benzyl Alcohol: Another Irritating Preservative Unsafe For Infants)
- Phenoxyethanol (EWG’s Skin Deep score of 4)
Phenoxyethanol is used as a preservative. There is high concerns of Irritation of skin, eyes, or lungs. There is also a concern of immune system toxicity with phenoxyethanol. However, there is limited evidence to prove immune system toxicity.
- Ethylhexyglycerin (EWG’s Skin Deep score of 1)
Ethylhexyglycerin is used as preservatives and it can cause contact dermatitis.
- Sodium Benzoate EWG’s (Skin Deep score of 3)
Sodium Benzoate is an ingredient that has sense organ toxicity (non-reproductive) concern. However, this concern is marked at low with EWG’ Skin Deep since there are limited evidence of organ system toxicity. On the other hand, there are people who are against using this chemical in products. In the article, This Is Why Sodium Benzoate Is So Scary, it states that the combination of sodium benzoate and citric acid and/or ascorbic acid (vitamin C) form benzene, a cancer-causing chemical. Pampers has both citric acid and sodium benzoate in the ingredients. (marked with * and in bold)
Fabric Material: Non-woven cloth like material which is made of modified cellulose & polypropylene blend (read Pampers Baby Wipes.)
Polypropylene is #5 plastic which is a low-toxin plastic that is tolerant of heat. It is used in Pamper’s wipes for extra softness and flexibility. However, polypropylen is a plastic. One study found that polypropylene leached at least two chemicals. (read more about polypropylene leaching chemicals.) Also, University of Texas published the study and confirmed that almost all plastics, even BPA-free plastics leach hormone-disrupting chemicals.
- Modified Cellulose (Rayon)
Modified cellulose is manufactured fiber made from cellulose or protein. Rayon is a manufactured fiber. Rayon is recycled wood pulp that is treated with thousands of harmful toxic chemicals during production. Its chemicals can cause headache, nausea, insomnia, vomiting, chest and muscle pain. (read Health Risks Of Toxic Fibers and Fabrics.)
Joonya Baby Wipes – Non-Toxic Baby Wipes
Joonya baby wipes‘ ingredients are pretty safe. They use decyl glucoside as a surfactant and silver dihydrogen citrate as a preservative. (highlighted below.) These chemicals have EWG score of only 1 (hazard score 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest). They are also fragrance free. They are infused with Aloe Vera, Chamomile & Jojoba Oil. They are a GOLD medal winner for Australian Mother & Baby Magazine Awards 2017.
Ingredients: Purified Water, Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract, Silver Dihydrogen Citrate, Citric Acid, Decyl Glucoside, Sodium Citrate
Fabric material: 100% viscose fabric. These wipes are biodegradable. Viscose is made from cellulose which is the most commonly wood pulp. (from a plant such as bamboo)
It takes efforts to look at the ingredients when you try to buy non-toxic baby wipes. However, it will be worth it for your baby’s well-being and safety. Remember the main toxic ingredients so you can scan through ingredients when you buy non-toxic baby wipes. Avoid ingredients that are petroleum-based so baby wipes don’t have petrochemicals. Also, remember marketing words such as ‘sensitive’ or ‘hypoallergenic’ doesn’t mean baby wipes don’t contain toxic ingredients. In addition, always choose ‘fragrance-free’, not ‘unscented’ when buying baby wipes.
For the Best Non-Toxic baby wipes, please read my next posting, Best Non-Toxic Baby Wipes – Get Safe Baby Wipes For Your Baby!