7 Harmful Ingredients in Baby Care Products

Does your baby really need that plastic teething ring? Most parents are shocked to learn that many popular baby products, including teething rings, contain harmful ingredients linked to serious health problems. Even with efforts like the Lautenberg act to help regulate chemicals, parents should always be in the know about the ingredients to avoid.

Bisphenol-A (BPA)

You’ve probably heard of the hormone-disrupting chemical BPA. It causes damage to the brain, reproductive system, heart, liver, and more.

A team of scientists was curious about the chemical makeup in the liquid found inside teething rings. To simulate the way they’re used, researchers placed 59 of the most popular rings in individual containers of water. When the water was tested, they found that several harmful chemicals (including BPA) had leached out at detectable levels. What’s most disturbing is that many of the products had been labeled “BPA-free.”


In 2011, formaldehyde was classified as a “known human carcinogen” in a report by the National Toxicology Program, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Researchers found that long-term exposure to formaldehyde was linked to an increase in leukemia and brain cancer. It’s important to note that this exposure happened over many years, which is probably why manufacturers of products containing formaldehyde consider small amounts over a limited time reasonably safe.

This doesn’t completely dismiss the possibility that they could be harmful, though. The words “known human carcinogen” are very clear. Some manufacturers of baby products have begun eliminating formaldehyde from their products because of consumer concerns. However, some products do still contain formaldehyde “releasers.”


While it is considered a natural substance, we thought it was important to include on our list given the concerning headlines lately. Talcum powder is the pulverized form of a naturally occurring mineral, which is composed of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. Although the silky texture and moisture-absorbing properties make it an ideal choice to treat diaper rash, doctors have warned that talc dust can cause infant breathing problems.

More recently, talcum powder lawsuit headlines have added another reason to avoid using talc-based baby powders. While study results are mixed, there is a great deal of evidence tying talc and ovarian cancer together. Some argue that asbestos contamination could be the cause, while others blame talc. The mineral was supposed to be free of asbestos, according to FDA studies, but as recently as June of 2017 it was discovered in the face powder of a major tween makeup brand.

*According to the American Cancer Society, the evidence about cancer and talc is contradictory, with some studies showing that it’s perfectly safe, and others suggesting the opposite.

Propylene Glycol

This petroleum-based chemical absorbs liquids and maintains a uniform moisture level in antifreeze and many other consumer goods, including some brands of baby wipes. It’s well known and accepted that propylene glycol is dangerous in high doses, but it isn’t clear that small doses on the skin cause harm. However, you should be careful to always put your baby wipes away immediately after use, so your baby or toddler doesn’t put one into her mouth. At higher concentrations, it can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis.


Have you ever wondered what exactly, is in the “fragrance” that you see listed as an ingredient in so many products? You’re not alone. In most cases, though, the manufacturer won’t tell you. Although the ingredients are required to be listed under the fair packaging and labeling act, they can also be protected as “trade secrets.”

The truth is, many different artificial and natural substances are used to create these scents. So it’s hard to know what you’re putting onto your baby’s skin.

Flame Retardant Chemicals

Flame-retardant pajamas sounds like a great idea. Who could argue with such a well-intentioned safety measure? Unfortunately, the chemicals used to protect children’s clothing, car seats, nursing pillows and many other baby items have been linked to cancer and other serious medical problems.

Is it worth the risk to buy your baby or child pajamas with flame-retardant chemicals? Every parent will have to weigh the pros and cons, but one way to avoid exposure to flame retardant while keeping your child safe is to avoid loosely-fitting clothing that’s more likely to ignite from contact with an open flame. You should also install several smoke detectors in your home, and replace batteries regularly.

Mineral Oil

Baby oil is one of the most popular infant care products of all time. Used exactly as directed, there don’t appear to be any major safety concerns about it. However, children have developed serious respiratory problems by inhaling small amounts of mineral oil. Apparently, it prevents the tiny hairs in the airway from triggering a cough when the liquid is inhaled. Since there’s no coughing, the mineral oil can travel directly into the lungs and cause serious illness.

Of course, no one intends for a child to drink, and then choke, on mineral oil, but parents know that any object picked up by a baby or toddler will likely go straight into the mouth. For this reason, always remove baby oil from your changing table or bathing area as soon as you finish using it, and store it someplace a crawling baby or curious toddler can’t access.

Reducing the Chemical Load

Of course, you can shop for safer, more natural baby products. You can also minimize exposure to these substances by using oils, lotions, and shampoos sparingly, and only when necessary. There’s no need to slather your baby with chemicals simply because it “smells good.” Perhaps the easiest way to reduce the chemical load on their developing bodies is simply to read labels, minimize the use of skin care products, and keep plastic toys out of their mouths.