From Seventh Generation:
Toddling Toward Toxicity:
What Consumer Products Slather on Our Kids
At Seventh Generation, we spend a lot of our time looking at
research reports, and most of them are much the same. Chemical X
creates Problem Y and Product Z contains it. But here's a study
of a kind we've never seen before. Researchers surveyed
thousands of parents to find out what products they use on their
children and compared their answers to actual ingredient lists.
The groundbreaking results show just what problematic chemicals
our kids are being exposed to every day.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) interviewed 3,300 parents
via an on-line survey and asked them what specific children's
personal care products they used on their kids. When compared to
the ingredients list for those products, researchers were able
to see for the first time exactly what chemical compounds the
nation's children are coming into contact with on a daily basis
via personal care products
The EWG found that the average child is exposed to 27 chemicals
per day that have not been found to be safe for young people.
The list includes substances linked to a variety of ills
including cancer, neurological damage, allergies, and hormonal
disruption. Specifically, the study discovered that:
• 82% of children are exposed at least once a week to one or
more ingredients that have the potential to damage the brain and
• 69% of children are exposed at least once per week to one or
more ingredients that have been linked to the disruption of
body's hormone system.
• 3.6% of children are exposed to ingredients that have been
associated with cancer, including substances that have been
declared to be known or probable human carcinogens.
• 80% of children's products marked as "gentle" and/or
"non-irritating" contain ingredients linked to allergies and/or
skin or eye irritation.
Knowledge like this is important because children are
exponentially more vulnerable to environmental toxins than
adults, and even substances that may pose no threat to us
grown-ups may be risky to use on our progeny. There are a host
of reasons for this including children's higher metabolism
relative to their body weight, their immature immune systems,
and their undeveloped organs. According to the EWG, for example,
a child's skin is 30 times thinner than an adult's, a fact which
means it can absorb much larger amounts of any chemicals in
products applied to it compared to mature skin.
As we've said many times before, children can be exposed to
controversial ingredients in personal care products targeted to them
because the U.S. currently has no laws that require safety
studies of a given product before it can be sold. Instead,
companies are permitted to sell any product formula without
prior scrutiny. According the EWG, Senator John Kerry will be
introducing a bill to remedy this situation by directing the
Food and Drug Administration to ensure that all ingredients
contained in personal care products, including cosmetics, are
safe for use by children and adults. Chemicals known to cause
cancer would be banned.
Until that legislation or something like it makes its way into
law books, consumers will have to be their own watchdogs. To
help, the EWG has prepared two useful on-line guides to help
parents identify healthier personal care options. A general
database of personal care products can be found at
A special parent's guide to kid's products is located at
For more information about the EWG study, see
information on chemicals in everyday products.
Solutions to using safe and healthy product