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Choosing healthy personal care products for infants and children

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Just what is in the lotions, powders, and soaps that we use on our children? Environmental Working Group urges caution in choosing products, and offers tips on what to look for. And Chicago businesses offer many healthy options, including simple products found on your grocery shelves.

Are skin care products a concern for environmental health? Absolutely yes. Lotions, fragrances, and powders on your skin or that you inhale are part of your personal environment. Soaps and shampoos on your skin and in the steam of the bath are all chemicals that your body is exposed to. Take a careful look at your personal care products as part of creating an environmentally-healthy home.

Infants and children may be sensitive to chemicals for several reasons. They may receive higher  exposure per pound than adults from air, water, food, and skin products. Toddlers put their hands and toys in their mouth often, and can ingest more toxins than other age groups. In addition, infants and children have immature metabolism and organ systems that can be less equipped to clear toxins from their bodies.

What can you do? Here is a list of top 6 tips from Environmental Working Group (EWG):

  1. Use fewer products and use them less often.
  2. Don’t trust the claims. Check ingredients.
  3. Buy fragrance-free products.
  4. Avoid the use of baby powder on newborns and infants.
  5. Do your homework at EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.
  6. Always avoid EWG’s top 7 chemicals of concern for kids (2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3 Diol; BHA;  boric acid and sodium borate; dibutyl phthalate & toluene; DMDM Hydantoin; oxybenzone; and Triclosan).

The hardest part is tackling the ingredients. How can we make sense of the mish mash of chemical names that we'll never remember when shopping for products? Products that claim to be "natural" may in fact contain ingredients to avoid. Labels can be tricky. Manufacturers can use wording that technically is true, but leaves a loop hole to get around one or two things they add that you would rather not have in your product.

Take a look at EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. The database is organized by products, and they score the products based on the number of potentially harmful ingredients. They also offer a one-page parent's shopping guide that highlight specific products for children that scored well in their analysis.

Many of these products are available at your local grocery and drug stores, like Aveeno and Burt's Bees. Whole Foods also carries a number of products and a wider array of choices.

 For healthy infant and child products that you might not find elsewhere, try these two stores:

On a really tight budget? Check out online recipes for products you can make yourself. Olive oil, oatmeal, eggs, and rose water can work wonders for skin.

For more info: Environmental Working Group.

Suggestions, comments, questions? Anything about environmental health that you would like to know about? Email your Chicago Environmental Health Examiner at MarisaNaujokas@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter @chicagoenviron.

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