In the last year or so, I've noticed something surprising in the drug store aisles: Children's medications labeled "dye free." Dye free? It hasn't ever even occurred to me to think about the possible dyes in my son's ibuprofen or acetaminophen. But why else would that pain reliever be a bright, bubblegum pink?
Yes, there are synthetic dyes in your kids' medicines. And in their toothpaste. (Hello, eye-popping aqua blue!) And in their cute, bear-shaped gummy vitamins -- which they probably eat every single day. Here's why those dyes worry me.
Many synthetic dyes are made from petroleum. I mean that alone gives me the heebie-jeebies. It's bad enough that we're hopelessly dependent on oil for fuel, but do we really have to use it on other stuff, too?
But it gets worse. In case you haven't stayed up late Googling all the dangers of synthetic dyes (c'mon, I know I'm not the only one), Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2, and Green 3 have been linked to everything from asthma, to ADHD, to cancer, even reproductive problems. Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 make up 90 percent of the food dyes out there, so if we banned just those three, it would be a huge improvement. I'm not even sure why these dyes are still legal, especially for children's products.
A Change.org petition is demanding that manufacturers remove synthetic dyes from all children's personal care products. I hope it picks up some steam and that manufacturers pay attention. But another thing you can do is choose medicines that are labeled "dye free." You can ask your pharmacist to fill your prescriptions with dye-free medications. For now, I've given up on children's vitamins (OMG, the sugar!), but there are kid-friendly toothpastes that don't come in neon aqua.
Look, I think a little bit of synthetic dye every once in a while is no big deal for healthy kids. I am not going to shit bricks if my son is at a birthday party and they serve "blue punch." But given how ubiquitous synthetic dyes are, I definitely want to minimize my son's (and my) exposure to them, especially in personal care products he uses every day.
Have you ever wondered how many synthetic dyes your child is exposed to every day?
Image via bradleysjohnson/Flickr