For a while now, phthalates have been under scientific supervision for the potential harm they cause babies. Phthalates, though difficult to pronounce correctly, is in most of the household items we use every day. They’re chemical compounds added to certain lotions and synthetic materials, and they’re meant to soften plastics. Aside from your trusted baby products, phthalates are found in plastic bottles, containers, lotions, fragrances and cars. While we are exposed to them often, some research suggests they’re more dangerous for the delicate bodily systems of babies.

Traditionally, the phthalates used in baby toys and teething devices have been called into question. Researchers were worried that the compounds might be swallowed directly from the toys, or that they might seep into the milk or food that they contain. Now, recent studies are raising new concerns. Experts suggest that the phthalates used in baby lotions and powders might be absorbed directly into the skin and cause even more harm than if the compounds had been swallowed.

The true side effects of phthalates on growing babies are not certain. Some studies suggest that it could lead to asthma in childhood, and other suggest it might lead to obesity and early puberty. Whatever the side effects, research concretely showed that babies exposed to lotions and powders with phthalates consistently had traces of it in their urine.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a phthalate-free world, but there are ways you can lower your baby’s exposure as much as possible. The study conducted on phthalate skin exposure suggested that you only use creams, lotions and powders on your baby if medically required. This is especially important if your baby is under eight months old, because the study shows that this is when they are most vulnerable. Additionally, try finding product that is free of phthalates. Companies are not required to mention them, so you might need to look carefully at the ingredient list. Even phthalates used in bottles and containers can sneak into your baby’s food or milk, so you’ll want to contact the manufacturer to find out if the compounds were used if you’re especially confused.

We can’t protect our babies from everything, and in some ways, phthalates are one of those things we simply have to live with. However, you can certainly try to minimize your baby’s exposure to the chemical compound, which could reduce his or her risk for certain conditions.

Source: S Sathyanarayana et al: Baby Care Products: Possible Sources of Infant Phthalate Exposure. Journal of Pediatrics Volume 121 Issue 2 pp. 280-268 February 2008