The external world actually begins to affect the health of your child well before his or her birth. A fetus is exposed to its mother’s “body burden” of toxic ingredients from the cosmetics and personal-care products she has used, along with other toxins from the air she breathes, the water she drinks, the foods she eats, and the medicines she takes.
A few weeks before a baby is born, the umbilical cord pumps an estimated 300 quarts of blood daily between the placenta and fetus. As a result, much of a mother’s own body burden of toxic contaminants cycles rapidly through her unborn child. Only breastfeeding rivals this period of development in its potential for a mother’s own accumulated chemical contaminants to affect her child.
As a clear illustration of how easily the chemicals a mother uses on her skin end up in her fetus, consider these findings: An analysis of umbilical cord blood samples taken from twenty-seven European volunteers, in a 2005 study conducted by Greenpeace International and Britain’s WWF (formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund), detected eight groups of contaminants.1 These included fragrances used in perfumes and personal-care products and synthetic musks, used to replace natural aromas in cosmetics, hand creams, perfumes, and soaps. The most common type of synthetic musk, known as HCB, turned up in almost all of the blood samples taken.
Musk ambrette, another synthetic musk, was found in twelve of twenty-seven umbilical cords tested—despite the fact that this ingredient had been banned in European cosmetics (though not in U.S. cosmetics) as a toxin since 1995.
Another major group of contaminants called phthalates (pronounced “thalates”), which are used as solvents or fixing agents in perfumes, body lotions, and other cosmetics, were detected in most cord blood samples. The most commonly used phthalate, DEHP, was found in twenty-four of the twenty-seven samples.
The report referred to numerous studies which, in the words of the researchers, “have shown a correlation between premature breast development in girls younger than eight years old and the concentrations of the phthalate DEHP in their blood. Other research suggests that exposure to some phthalates affects the sexual development of baby boys at exposure rates currently seen in the U.S.”
Still another contaminant found in half of the cord blood samples was triclosan, an antibacterial ingredient in toothpaste, deodorants, antibacterial soaps, and cosmetics. Lab studies on rats have shown that triclosan is toxic to normal liver enzymes. Of equal concern, triclosan persists in the environment and in our bodies, accumulating as it is passed up the food chain, and contributes to reduced resistance to antibiotics.