death by bath: babies get the poopy end of the stick

March 23, 2011

I don't want no suds.

It only seems logical that babies should have the gentlest and mildest products available, right? Their skin is incredibly sensitive, and because their sweat glands are not yet fully developed and their oil glands are not active  (in so far as they will be once they hit puberty),  they are not particularly stinky or dirty, as far as humans go.  It’s not like they’re working construction 10 hours a day in the dusty heat (silly babies!) so they don’t need to get squeaky clean at the end of the day. I’m not a parent, but I’m guessing that the logic behind sudsing up a little one is to disinfect them, to protect them from those cartoony, sinister looking germs we see on commercials. It’s all in good intention that parents suds up and slather their babes in all kinds of goopy things that come from cutesy bottles that soothe parents with promises of soft and gentle care.

I guess many people just want to trust the products they use on their babies. They want to believe that they are doing their best, and that these extra-mild baby washes and creams are passionately created by people in lab-coats, who would never, ever add anything toxic just to increase the shelf life of the formula. Or add a dog’s breakfast of chemicals to add the therapeutic benefits of a synthetic lavender vanilla scent. And nobody would suspect that one of the most toxic additives has been lovingly sprinkled into baby products, just to make the other chemicals less harsh.

Seriously. Chemicals added to tone down other chemicals. The scary thing is that these chemicals will never be seen listed on the ingredients of your baby’s bubble bath, your shampoo and toothpaste because it is not considered a “deliberately” included ingredient in the formulation; it’s more of a contaminant, which doesn’t exactly instill trust either, does it? It just happens to show up to the party unannounced, because it was used in the creation of an ingredient. This has all the logic of saying that you can serve your chocolate chip cookies even though the chips were made of arsenic (to give it extra kick), and not tell anybody because it was “just a process the artificial chocolate went through to bring out the flavor, no big deal”. Uh huh. Your guests will love being poisoned “by accident”.

One of the worst is a by-product released in the ethoxylation process of creating common chemical nasties that have an -eth, -ceteareth, -xynol and -oleth  in them, as well as PEG-.  Everyone’s favourite, sodium laureth sulfate which is found in basically everything that creates a lather, is a good example of one of these chemicals. The by-product in question here is called 1,4-Dioxane and is a known toxic substance that has been linked to breast cancer, respiratory illness, destroys kidneys, causes birth defects, and damages the central nervous system. It also plays a major factor in contaminating wetlands as the chemical is flushed away.

Just to remind you, this is a chemical added to make other chemicals seem less harsh. Let that sink in for a second, because the more I think about it, the more it completely disturbs me.

Why? How could any maker of “mild” baby wash, so gentle they can pour it into the eyes of rabbits without them snapping their own necks in protest, be so evil as to add something proven toxic and carcinogenic? (You sense the sarcasm there, right?) In an effort to keep formula costs as low as possible, (and basically to be as unethical as humanly possible, especially when you factor in the unnecessary animal testing), many companies just add layers of chemicals upon chemicals to make “tear-free”, “extra mild” and “sensitive-skin” formulas. Fairly counter-intuitive, isn’t it, considering how many options there are out there for gentle, chemical-free skin care that is pure enough to eat (but granted, is more expensive).

Unfortunately, most consumers do not educate themselves about how much harm conventional products, and yeah, even (and especially) baby products, can cause. They keep buying bad, inexpensive products so that these companies can continue to produce them. It’s a destructive, never-ending cycle.

We put our faith in our government to protect us as consumers, but they don’t have our backs. They look out for companies, first and foremost. The onus is on us consumers to not buy certain products, and to complain to the government about chemicals we do not want to see in our personal use products. Should we decide not to do anything about this as adults, fine. Your loss, buddy.

However, babies can not vote with their spending power, and they can not decide what products to use. They get the poopy end of this stick. If you are a parent, please read the ingredients of everything you expose your baby to, including wipes and baby bottles. Spend a little extra to use only safe products, with mild, organic plant-based oils and butters without harsh preservatives. Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild Formula is an inexpensive and amazing Castille soap that babes of all ages can enjoy (this here 29 year old baby loves it). Use mild balms, such as Stark’s Naked balm for skin ailments, and make an informed choice about what your baby is exposed to.

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