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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 nervous system.

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 .

for More information on chemicals in everyday products.

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