Buying guide for Baby Care (General) products
Identifying safe baby products can be a challenge, especially when there are so many products out there to choose from: clothing, diapers, bottles, shampoo, soap, baby wipes. Here are some of the issues to consider when you're planning on buying baby care products:
- Toxic baby products — Surprisingly, many baby products are formulated with potentially hazardous chemicals. The key to determining whether a product poses a health risk is evaluating whether use of a product results in high or repeat exposures to chemicals of concern. Diapers, for example, do not represent a significant source of exposure to toxics, while products like baby bottles can be if they continuously leach ingredients into a baby's daily feedings. Intermittently applied products like soaps or shampoos are unlikely sources of high exposure, compared with continuously emitting products like diaper pail deodorants, which can result in significant indoor air pollution.
- Babies are especially vulnerable to exposures to hazardous chemicals — Given their size and the immaturity of their bodies, babies face a greater health risk from exposure to chemicals than adults. Infants breathe more air and have more skin surface per pound of body weight than adults. Because major organ systems are still developing after birth, babies do not have fully functioning metabolic systems for getting rid of toxins as efficiently as adults and can be particularly susceptible to endocrine, immune or nervous system insults. As a result, the same amount of a toxin can have a larger impact on babies than adults.
- Taking precautions to avoid unnecessary exposures — Given the variety of chemical ingredients in baby products, consumers are rightly concerned about how little is known about how these chemical mixtures can affect growing infants and how lax regulatory controls are over baby products. The case for precaution is the strongest with baby products, as no mother wants to treat their baby like a guinea pig and expose them to inadequately tested chemicals.
As is the case with all consumer goods, it's important to keep product packaging in mind. Baby care products often come in smaller packages or individually-wrapped, forcing a trade-off between convenience and the environment.
What to look for
Rating Baby Care (General) products
To rate a personal care or household chemical product, GoodGuide considers the following attributes:
- A health hazard rating based on the number of product ingredients categorized as low, medium or high health concern;
- Indicators that the product exhibits other negative aspects (e.g., does the product contain ingredients that have been banned or subjected to regulatory restrictions);
- Indicators that the product is among the best on the market in its category (e.g., has the product been certified as safe or healthy by a credible third-party);
- Indicators of data gaps that preclude evaluation of the product (e.g., no or inadequate disclosure of product ingredients).
Categorizing Ingredients by Levels of Health Concern
Defining Levels of Health
In order to identify ingredients of health concern, we utilize the science of health hazard assessment and rely on lists of chemicals labeled hazardous by various authoritative organizations. GoodGuide tracks whether chemicals are recognized or suspected of causing any of twelve major types of human health problems, ranging from cancer to endocrine toxicity to skin or eye toxicity. We combine this hazard data with chemical potency, human detection frequency and toxicity testing information, in order to assign ingredients to four levels of health concern: none, low, medium and high.