WHAT IT MEANS: The FDA is not doing all it could to protect our children (or us) from unnecessary chemical exposure. The agency doesn’t require contaminants to be listed on labels, and it doesn’t require companies to test products for safety before they go on the market. Even if Margaret Hamburg, a former New York City health commissioner and President Barack Obama’s pick as commissioner of the FDA, does decide to take on this mammoth problem, it’s likely going to take some time to clean up the system. Parents, plan on taking this matter into your own hands, at least for the time being.
Here’s how to avoid bringing these contaminants into your baby’s bathtub.
• Don’t always trust the label. “All natural” doesn’t mean much of anything. Instead of focusing on claims on a label, turn the bottle around and investigate the ingredients.
• Know the usual suspects. To avoid chemical contamination, look for products that don’t contain problematic ingredients linked to 1,4-dioxane, such as PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, polyethoxyethylene, or polyoxynolethylene. Stay away from formaldehyde by avoiding products that list formalin and methyl aldehyde as ingredients, too. Another no-no? Parabens, which are preservatives linked to health problems. In the near future, a new organic standard for personal care products will make it easier to ID bath products free of health-threatening chemicals.
• Flip it over. It’s great to scrutinize ingredients, but remember to eyeball the actual container, too. Look for the plastic's number, found in a little triangle that's usually on the bottom of the container. Products packaged in No. 3 plastic, known as PVC (or the “poison plastic” to some), can leach phthalates, a family of plasticizers that can interfere with a child’s physical development. Some phthalates are considered so risky for kids they were recently banned from being used in children’s toys.
• Tell Congress to clean up chemical contamination in personal care products. There’s growing recognition that what we put on our skin—not just what we eat—can affect our health. Tell your senators or representative to crack down on harmful chemicals in personal care products.