Possible reproductive problems have been linked to chemicals found in shampoos, lotions and powders for babies, a small study suggests.
The chemicals, called phthalates, are found in many ordinary products including cosmetics, toys, vinyl flooring and medical supplies. They are used to stabilize fragrances and make plastics flexible.
In the study, they were found in elevated levels in the urine of babies who'd been recently shampooed, powdered or lotioned with baby products. Animal studies have suggested that phthalates can cause reproductive birth defects and some activists believe they may cause reproductive problems in boys and early puberty in girls.
Phthalates (pronounced thowl-ates) are under attack by some environmental advocacy groups, but experts are uncertain what dangers, if any, they might pose. The federal government doesn't limit their use, although California and some countries have restricted their use.
"There is an obvious need for laws that force the beauty industry to clean up its act," said Stacy Malkan of Health Care Without Harm.
Rigorous scientific evidence in human studies is lacking. The current study offers no direct evidence that products the infants used contained phthalates, and no evidence that the chemicals in the babies’urine caused any harm. Still, 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.
(Agencies via Xinhua February 5, 2008)