Top 7 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid When Shopping for Your Kids

Jeanne Sager | Jun 12, 2012 Big Kid
Top 7 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid When Shopping for Your Kids

safe for kidsDo you remember when shopping for kids was easy? Back when the main criteria for making a purchase were price and cuteness factor? Oh, those were the days ... before everything was so loaded down with toxic chemicals that buying a bottle of stuff to untangle your 6-year-old's mane requires a dictionary to decipher the ingredient list.

Most of the time that means buying something that "looks" like it should be OK. But how do you know if that new sport bottle really is safe? If that new bottle of "kids" shampoo is going to give them cancer? How about a list of the biggest, baddest toxic nasties that you need to avoid at all costs when you're shopping for your kids?

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The Stir asked the experts at the non-profit watchdog the Environmental Working Group to help us come up with a list of the top five ingredients in any child product that parents need to avoid. They did that and threw in two more biggies to keep away from the kids.

No more trying to figure out what every single word on the back of the bottle means: if any of these terms show up, you'd be better off putting it right back on the shelf.

What are the words you look for on the ingredients list of any kid product?


Image by Jeanne Sager


  • BPA


    Image via YIM Hafiz/Flickr

    BPA or Bisphenol-A is a hot topic these days, but that doesn't mean it's gone away.

    Where It's Hiding: Plastics, from the water bottle you buy for your kid's soccer practice to the inner lining of cans of children's soups.

    Why You Need to Avoid It: According to the EWG, BPA exposure has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and trigger a wide variety of disorders, including chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity, and resistance to chemotherapy.

  • Phthalates


    Image by Jeanne Sager

    Phthalates show up in everything from toys to raincoats, shampoos to nail polish (although not the stuff on this kid's toes!), and beyond. They're seemingly everywhere, but that doesn't mean you can't get keep them away from your kids.

    Where They're Found: The real question is where aren't they found. Although several toy manufacturers are promising to phase them out, they're still present in many, in addition to a ton of kids' products on the shelves.

    Why You Need to Avoid Them: From the folks at the EWG: "Though the CDC contends the health hazards of phthalates to humans have not been definitively established, for some years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has regulated phthalates as water and air pollutants." There are studies that have linked these chemicals to everything from hormone disruption to liver cancer.

  • Flame Retardants


    Image via amybatchelder/Flickr

    Flame retardants or PDBES are fortunately being phased out by many companies but are still present in a lot of older products and can still crop up today. Studies have found kids' bloodstreams contain as much as three times the concentration of PDBES as the blood of their moms.

    Where They're Hiding: Mostly used in electronics and foams, when we're talking kids, think car seats, mattresses, and foam pillows.

    Why They Should Be Avoided: Linked to neurological issues, the folks at EWG say studies of mice found even miniscule exposure to fire retardants could cause hyperactivity.

  • Fragrance


    Image via davitydave/Flickr


    Fragrance is a word that can be deceiving. It doesn't refer just to colognes and perfumes, but to anything that gives scent, and the EWG warns it's a catch-all word that covers a lot of chemicals.

    Where It's Hiding: Just about any health and beauty product you'd buy for your child, from soap to shampoo to bubble bath, could have a fragrance hiding in it. Also beware of handwipes and anything else with a "smell," and fragrance on the label.

    Why You Should Avoid It: Regulations are loose, and the 3,000-plus chemicals the word "fragrance" represents can cause anything from allergic reactions to birth defects, depending on what they are.

  • PEGs


    Image by Jeanne Sager

    The PEGs are a long list of chemicals that show up with the letters peg as a prefix, such as peg-40 lanolin or peg-6.

    Where They're Hiding: These polymer derivatives are usually found in personal care items such as shampoos and soaps that you might buy for your children.

    Why You Should Avoid Them: The short list of scary stuff linked to PEGs includes cancer, reproduction and fertility issues, birth or developmental effects, and organ system toxicity (non-reproductive).

  • Parabens


    Image via Raelene G/Flickr

    Parabens covers a whole family from butylparaben to isobutylparaben, and they should all be avoided.

    Where They're Hiding: Kids' personal care products (and adults' too).

    Why You Should Avoid Them: According to the EWG, parabens disrupt the hormone (endocrine) system, and were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied.

  • DMDM hydantoin


    Image by Jeanne Sager

    DMDM is nothing to mess around with.

    Where It's Hiding: Personal care products like kids' toothpaste and lotion!

    Why You Should Avoid It: DMDM is considered an allergen and irritant that can form cancer causing contaminants.

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