Protect Your Kids From This Toxic Ingredient

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, Development/Milestones: Babies, In The News, Going Green, Dear Karla

Dear Karla,
Some friends of mine have been talking about toxic ingredients that can change the natural levels of hormones in our children, especially in products that we put on their skin. Do you know what they are talking about? Is there something I should be on the lookout for when I'm shopping? Thanks, Stacey


Hi Stacey,
It sounds like your friends have picked up on a really hot topic, and one I take very seriously. The ingredient your friends are talking about is parabens, and they're right to be concerned. Studies have shown that parabens can have some scary effects on our health.

Here's what you need to know...
What Are Parabens?
Parabens are a class of chemicals that are used extensively as a preservative in cosmetics and things often applied to the skin. They can be beneficial in a product because they help keep out both bacteria and different types of fungi. Examples of items that they are commonly found in are shampoos, body lotions, face moisturizers, toothpaste, body sprays and fabric-related products.

Why Are Parabens So Bad?
The reason why parabens are getting attention is that, in the body, they mimic the effects of estrogen, leading to concerns about health issues such as breast cancer. One study on 20 different breast tumours found that each of these tumours had traces of parabens present. The argument that stirred was that whatever we apply directly on to our skin may be getting absorbed into our body and blood circulation. )This really should not be "news" to anyone though, as our skin is the largest organ and naturally will absorb whatever chemicals are placed on it.) An article by the Organic Consumers Association states that children are at greater risk of cancers and fertility problems later in life due to greater exposure to these toxic products.

While long-term research would be ideal, we may want to look at this small study as a red flag for the future. We know our world is becoming more "chemically made," as I often describe it, and we know this is not beneficial to anyone, especially children who will be exposed to far more chemicals than we will as adults. Your home can be a better place even if you remove one potentially harmful chemical at a time.

What to Look For
When purchasing any of the products listed previously, keep an eye out for products labeled "paraben free," and stay away from products that contain any form of paraben, such as:
  • Methylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben
Want to make the rest of your home more toxin-free? Check out this post on how to be a greener parent, and this post on choosing a green cleaner.

Karla Heintz, B.Sc., is a nutrition educator and author of Picky? Not Me, Mom! A Parents' Guide to Children's Nutrition. If you have a question you would like answered please leave it in the comment section below. Thanks!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.