The populace has become so self-assured that it trusts people and products to be what they want them to be, which could genuinely be opposite of their expectations. In the case of personal hygiene products, we are satisfied if they remove the smudge, erase the stain and kill the germ. Few consider the trade-off. Well, folks, it’s about time we did…consider the trade-offs, that is. As is the case with our food, if you can’t pronounce the name of the ingredient, it doesn’t belong in or on your body. We’re told that we consume too little of this or that chemical to be concerned about cancer but have you wondered if a little bit here and there adds up to a lot? Such it is with baby wipes.
Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is one of those barely pronounceable words that may or may not find its way to the label of your baby wipes. It’s sort of like MSG, which has so many aliases you can’t tell if it’s in a food or not. Autolyzed this or that and hydrolyzed that or this are but two examples of MSG stage names. However, cosmetics and baby products do NOT fall under FDA regulations. A few things, such as soaps, require no label at all, but some makers include one to protect themselves legally. At the same time, proprietary ingredients can be secret and need not be listed at all. You see, if a product does not claim to have medicinal properties, its label can be vacant. MIT is a powerful biocide used in personal care products because it works well in solutions that contain water, which is a medium in which bacteria like to grow. Human occupational exposure to this chemical has resulted in contact dermatitis, chemical burns and allergic sensitization (Goncalo, 2013) (Urwin, 2013). Inhalation is also a common route of exposure (Aerts, 2013). That means your baby gets a double whammy during a diaper change. The danger? Neurotoxicity. Even brief exposure damages nerve cells (Du, 2002). One drop in a 55-gallon drum of water is all it takes. And that’s considered a safe level. Isn’t contact dermatitis enough insult (Lundov, 2011) (Monroe, 2010)?
A preservative originally meant for the paint industry has found its way into personal care products, including baby wipes. Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate (IPBC) is a biocide whose use is restricted in some countries, but not in the U.S. Initially deemed safe, IPBC has been reported to be a potent contact allergen (Badreshia, 2002) (Bryld, 1997). Some things are put on the market without ever being checked out for safety. And that means long-term safety, not just for this week. Carbamate biocides inhibit acetylcholine at nerve synapses and neuromuscular junctions. Fortunately, this is reversible, but it might take a few weeks. Not all babies will react to all things in like manner, but there are signs to watch for. Hypersalivation, hypermotility of the GI system (stuff moves faster through the gut than normal), constriction of the pupil of the eye, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, cyanosis, respiratory distress, muscle twitching and weakness, and convulsions are major reactions to carbamates (Merck Manual, 2013). This chemical has such potential for harm that the healthcare profession is prepared to handle its deployment as a terrorist weapon of mass casualties (Rosman, 2009). Sounds safe, eh? If you don’t see it on the label, you have to call and ask…unless you have a guaranteed baby-safe product in your hand. This is serious business.
We’re not done yet. There’s one more. Actually, there are a few more, but time and space prevent their inclusion right now. If a disposable wipe is made from paper, it probably contains dioxins, which are not intentionally produced, but which are the by-products of several industrial processes, including bleaching of paper pulp, chemical and pesticide manufacture, and combustion activity. If there is waste incineration or a forest fire, there is combustion (Shibamoto, 2007) (Environment Australia, 1999). Anything termed “polychlorinated” is in the dioxin family. Notice that chlorine, a bleaching agent, is in the term. The toxicity of the various dioxin compounds varies, but it’s still there. Endocrine disruption is one action; altered gene expression is another. Reproduction problems, developmental delay, hormone dysfunction and immune damage add to the array. A more pressing matter with dioxins is their use in disposable diapers, where baby’ skin is exposed for a large part of the day.
Dioxins are persistent organic pollutants (POP’s) that exist ubiquitously—they’re everywhere, including the food supply, though because of strict emission controls are now on the wane. Because they accumulate in body fat, effects may not be realized for a long time, making it hard to pinpoint the blame for changes in liver function, heme metabolism, thyroid function and even diabetes and immunological disorders (Sweeney, 2000). Disturbances in tooth and sexual development have been observed (Alaluusua, 2004) (Mocarelli, 2000, 2008), as well as in bone resorption and formation (Koskela, 2012), where interference with the differentiation of osteoblasts and osteoclasts is a targeted effect (Korkalainen, 2009).
It’s important to purchase baby products that are safe. Adult products are no less contaminated with unpronounceable materials. Wipes made with organic fruit and vegetable extracts are much preferred, though paper may still be the substrate, in which case you night opt for cotton or flannel, which may be flushable, as hemorrhoid pads are. Considering the size of a baby’s gluteus, how big does a wipe need to be? By the way, breast milk will contain dioxins that the mother has ingested from meats, poultry and fish that absorbed them from aerial transport of the chemical and consequent deposition on vegetables, pastures and roughages. Trimming fat from meat is the best first step to avoidance.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
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