Chemical Connections

In the span of two months, researchers found that chemicals in baby’s products were both more dangerous—and more present—than was previously thought (see “The Battle to Ban Toxic Toys,” sidebar, May/June 2007). Last January, a paper released in the Journal of Reproductive Toxicology showed that the federal panel that had approved the use of bisphenol A for use in baby bottles and food can linings did so after disregarding hundreds of relevant studies. These showed that BPA can cause “breast cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, low sperm counts and miscarriage in laboratory animals,” according to a related article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. An industry consultant was running the panel.

The following month, researchers found that some 80 percent of babies tested had been exposed to another class of potentially harmful chemicals called phthalates. The findings, released in the February issue of Pediatrics, shows a direct link between use of baby shampoo, lotions and powder, which contain phthalates to stabilize fragrances, and the presence of phthalates in babies’ urine samples. “Right now, we still don’t know the true long-term effects,” says study author Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana. But, she said it’s wise to “decrease the amounts of products used, especially in newborns.” While companies aren’t required to list phthalates on their labels, consumers can seek out fragrance-free, organic products. In tests, phthalates have been linked to male reproductive problems.