Wet wipes have become a staple in many homes with small children, but also for many families who use them for other things, such as a substitute for toilet paper, removing makeup or even cleaning electronic displays.
Although more and more parents are conscientious about the toxicity of certain ingredients in the most common baby products, reading labels is not usually easy: we see a long list of unpronounceable names and unless you have chemical formation, we understand very little of what we are putting on the skin of our baby. In this post, we summarise those most hazardous components that you should avoid at all costs. We never tire of repeating that the industry believes that small quantities of these components 'are not dangerous,' but if we add those little amounts here and there, every day, in most products, we should worry indeed. The baby's skin is thinner than the adult skin, which means that more substances are absorbed into the bloodstream.
And if that's not enough to alarm us, we remind you that according to the analysis of the international agency Enviromental Working Group (EWG) on hidden ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, 95% of baby wipes may be potentially contaminated with hazardous chemicals. That means they never come in the list of ingredients, but there they are.
What must we avoid in the wipes?
Ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane
The most toxic ingredients use to be cleaning agents and emulsifiers since they are obtained by the use of ethylene oxide, which can contaminate the final product with carcinogens as ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. So, we will not find these two ingredients on the list, but surely that does not mean they are not: they are hidden ingredients and are considered as severe irritant in baby skins. Other ingredients that may be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane are:
- Bis-PEG / PPG-16/16 PEG / PPG-16/16 Dimethicone
- Laureth Potassium Phosphate
- Polysorbate 20
- PEG-75 Lanolin
Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are associated with generalised allergic dermatitis. And that's not all: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States (OSHA) has recognised formaldehyde as a carcinogen, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer has defined formaldehyde as "carcinogenic to humans”. Besides, the EWG has given this substance the highest score for its negative impact on health. We will not find formaldehyde in the list of ingredients, but instead, we must look for these preservatives that release it:
- Diazolidinyl Urea
- DMDM Hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Tosylamide / formaldehyde resin
- Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate
- 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bronopol)
- Polyoxymethylene Urea
We will never find the word Phthalates in the list the ingredients of baby wipes. However, you may find the word fragrance or perfume, which is a mixture of hidden ingredients in baby wipes. The problem is that companies have no obligation to reveal what do these perfumes carry unless they are certified by an environmental organisation. According to EWG, mixtures of fragrances often contain diethyl phthalate, which is associated with hormonal disorders, and have also been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress, and possible effects on the reproductive system. Although each product is in small quantities, we must be alert: a study found phthalates in the urine of babies whose mothers used baby products containing this chemical.
You should also pay close attention to preservatives such as Methylparaben and Methylisothiazolinone. They can cause an allergic skin reaction, and laboratory studies in mice suggest that it may be toxic to brain cells. The main concern about Methylparaben is that it mimics oestrogen and may disrupt the normal function of the hormone system.
Our advice: read the entire list of ingredients carefully and consult with experts if they can also have hidden ingredients such as these mentioned above. Remember that natural products usually avoid this type of formulation, so their ingredient lists often do not contain these dangerous hidden components.