Chemicals, called phthalates, were found in elevated levels in the urine of babies who'd been recently shampooed, powdered or lotioned with baby products in the United States, according to media reports Monday.
The chemicals were found in many ordinary products including cosmetics, toys, vinyl flooring and medical supplies. They are used to stabilize fragrances and make plastics flexible.
The new study involved 163 babies, most white, ages 2 to 28 months and living in California, Minnesota and Missouri.
The researchers measured levels of several phthalates in urine from diapers. They also asked the mothers about use in the previous 24 hours of baby products including lotions, powders, diaper creams and baby wipes.
All urine samples had detectable levels of at least one phthalate, and most had levels of several more. The highest levels were linked with shampoos, lotions and powders, and were most prevalent in babies younger than 8 months.
Animal studies have suggested that phthalates can cause reproductive birth defects and the results worried environmental groups that support restrictions on these chemicals.
The study's lead author, Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a University of Washington pediatrician, said, "The bottom line is that these chemicals likely do exist in products that we're commonly using on our children and they potentially could cause health effects."
Babies don't usually need special lotions and powders, and water alone or shampoo in very small amounts is generally enough to clean infant hair, Sathyanarayana said.
(Xinhua News Agency February 4, 2008)