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How Safe Are The Chemicals in Baby Products and Cosmetics?

How Safe Are The Chemicals in Baby Products and Cosmetics?
Nearly nine out of ten parents worry about the impact of the chemicals in their everyday products on their children's health.

In fact, when the media runs a story questioning a product's safety, more than one in three parents stop using that product altogether, without further investigation. 52% of parents say they would feel reassured by a better understanding of the ingredients in the products they use and what those ingredients do. However, at present there is a shortage of information on the purpose of ingredients and the safety of products.

Plus, the sources of information that exist for parents can provide conflicting advice, as Susan Seenan from support group, Infertility Network UK explains: 'Women who are trying to conceive are right to be concerned about the impact of chemicals and other substances both before and during pregnancy. Often they receive conflicting advice and it is essential that they have access to accurate information from reputable organisations and websites to reassure them and address any concerns they may have.'

Below are parents' top 5 concerns:

1. Can exposure to chemicals in cosmetics during pregnancy harm an unborn child?
One in six expectant mums worries that the chemicals in her everyday products could harm her unborn child
In the case of cosmetics and personal care products, all products must be rigorously assessed for safety by appropriately qualified and authorised scientists before they may be sold. The safety assessment must take into account all the different situations and conditions in which the products are likely to be used, including their use by women during pregnancy. If any risks at all are identified, the law requires that product makers must put clear warnings on the product labels. It is therefore important that you always read the label and follow its advice, then you can feel confident about enjoying your products safely.

2. Is it safe to use cosmetics while breastfeeding?
Some mothers worry about the effect of cosmetics on their breast milk. However, all scientific studies into this issue have concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that cosmetics make breast milk unsafe.
Of course some substances do penetrate the skin or may be ingested (from oralcare and lip products) but these are readily broken down and harmlessly excreted by our bodies. They will have undergone a rigorous safety check to make sure there is no possibility that they might build up to unsafe levels in our bodies.

3. Is it safe to use cosmetics on young children?
As all parents know, children need special care. The younger they are, the more they need looking after - and the same goes for their skin. All cosmetic products must pass a legally-required safety assessment. In addition, a more detailed assessment is required for any cosmetic product which is intended to be used on children under three years old. As a result, parents can feel reassured that the products they use on their baby's skin and hair are safe.

4. Can chemicals in everyday products be more easily absorbed through a child's skin than an adult's skin, with greater risk of harm?
Around one in three women becomes more aware of the chemicals in their everyday products when they become pregnant; one in five becomes more concerned. In addition, around one in six parents worries that chemicals can be more easily absorbed through young skin.
It is true that the skin of babies is more delicate than that of adults and can be damaged by coarse fabrics or rough towels for example. This is partly because baby skin is slightly thinner than adult skin but also because skin responds to the environment and babies are making the transition from life in the womb to life in the outside world. It takes time for baby skin to 'toughen up'.

However, babies are born with skin which is very nearly complete in its ability to act as a barrier and this further matures within the first two to four weeks of birth. So, although baby skin may be physically more sensitive than adult skin and thus requires gentler handling, from the point of view of being able to keep out unwanted substances, baby skin is an effective barrier.

Cosmetic and personal care products intended to be used on babies and infants are formulated to take account of these factors; for example, they use milder cleansers and minimal or no fragrance. There is also an enhanced safety assessment that is legally required for all cosmetic products intended for use on children under three years of age. So parents can be confident in their choice of cosmetic products for their family.

5. Are products made from natural ingredients safer for children than those made with man-made ingredients?
More than half of the people polled by CTPA believe 'natural' ingredients are better for them and a third believe this to be true of 'organic' products. You can feel confident that all cosmetic products you find on the shelves are safe for two reasons: first, stringent European laws require all cosmetic products to be safe and, second, because each one must undergo a rigorous safety assessment by appropriately qualified and authorised scientists.

The safety assessment takes account of all the ingredients used in the product, irrespective of their source. In fact, whether ingredients are natural or man-made has no bearing on how safe they are at all. What's more important is how much of the ingredient you are using and in what way you are using it.

Anything has the potential to be harmful if used in the wrong way - even water for example; too much or too little can cause severe harm.

Research by the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA).

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