11 Toxic (Harmful) Ingredients To Avoid In Baby Products

Make the right decisions when buying baby products. Check the toxic ingredients to avoid in baby products.

Seeing how small and fragile your baby is makes you want to take every step to protect them. You examine everything they touch to ensure it is safe, and that includes items designed for babies. You need to know what ingredients to avoid in baby products to keep them safe. 

Sometimes these ingredients are significant parts of the products. Other times they are additives that were supposed to make your baby safer. The problem is babies don’t always use the products the way the manufacturer expects them to. 

Often you can replace these products with natural materials that are much safer for your kid. These alternatives can cost a little more, but not always. You will want to research your options to find out what changes will work best for you. 

Article Content: 

Why Are Toxic Ingredients Used In Some Baby Products? 

There are many reasons baby products contain toxic ingredients. Sometimes, there are conflicting studies about the possible concerns with an ingredient or material. Companies don’t always change their process until they are sure there’s a problem. 

Sometimes, a company can make a product for a lot less money if they use toxic ingredients. They can make the product with these poisonous parts because they give an older recommended age, as if they claim they are not intended for babies, they don’t have to pass as many tests. 

You also have to be careful with cheap products. Toys, clothes, and many other items can be made in places that don’t have as many safety requirements. They may be unsafe, but they are so cheap that people still buy them.

11 Toxic Ingredients To Avoid In Baby Products 

A scientist looking thru a magnifying glass

You want to be careful with anything you allow your baby to touch. Babies will eventually try to put everything in their mouths, so you don’t want to leave products near your child that can harm them if they start licking or chewing the items. 

If you want to reduce your children’s exposure to toxic chemicals, start today by avoiding these 11 common chemicals!

1. Phthalates

You can find phthalates in personal care items for both you and the baby. Manufacturers use them to add fragrances. They are also prevalent in plastics as a softener. You see them in toys, cribs, bottles, and safety equipment. 

Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that can cause a list of problems for babies: asthma [1], childhood obesity [2], cancer [3], cardiovascular issues, and reproductive problems [4]. The most noticeable issues with these chemicals are skin irritations and asthma. 

Later in life, children exposed to these can have developmental disorders. In some cases, the exposure can also lead to poorly formed reproductive systems in boys. When left untreated, this can cause fertility issues. 

You can avoid this chemical by choosing hospital-grade silicon, and skip softer plastics whenever possible. You should not use personal care products with fragrances for your baby. Also, don’t put scented products on anything your baby may be putting in their mouth. 

2. BPA And BPA Substitutes 

BPA is a chemical that you can find in all types of plastic items. It is most prevalent in sippy cups, plastic plates, and serving utensils.  

BPA can cause many different issues in babies. It’s responsible for little ones ingesting a bunch of microplastics each day. From high doses, you may notice behavioral problems and early puberty later in life. In the worst-case scenario, BPA can be responsible for some forms of cancer [5]. 

Luckily, BPA was outlawed in 2012. Unfortunately, new studies are now looking at replacement options. There is evidence that they may be causing many of the same problems. These alternatives include BPS, BPE, and many other similar ingredients [6]. 

You can stay away from BPA and substitutes by not using plastic. Choose glass and metal options whenever possible. If you have to use plastics, don’t reuse disposable plastic containers and avoid plastics that are scratched up. If you can, never reheat something in plastic. Heat causes more BPA-style materials to mix into the baby’s food and drink.

3. Parabens

Personal care products use parabens as preservatives. The European Union has already banned them, but they are still in many products in the USA  [7].

Parabens are commonly found in shampoos, soaps, lotions, and sunscreens. 

When children come into contact with parabens, they may develop skin irritations. Prolonged exposure to them can cause the disfigurement of reproductive organs and fertility problems [8].

There have also been indications that young girls can have weight issues due to parabens which are most noticeable during the first eight years. 

You should pass on items that use paraben preservatives. These include the following:

  • Methylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben

Luckily, these are getting easier to avoid. Many companies are now getting rid of parabens from their products so they can sell in the EU. Look for products that use natural preservatives that are safer for your baby. 

4. Formaldehyde

You will see formaldehyde in many baby personal cleaning products. It’s a major chemical in soaps, shampoos, and lotions.  

Formaldehyde is one of the main ingredients in embalming fluid, and it is toxic. It is well known for its carcinogenic properties. It has been associated with many different kinds of cancer and long-term exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to myeloid leukemia [9]. It should be avoided by everyone, especially babies, because of how dangerous it can be. 

When purchasing personal care products for your baby or you, avoid the following.

  • Quaternium-15 
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Polyoxymethylene Urea
  • 2-Bromo-2-nitropropane-1
  • Glyoxal
  • 3-diol (bronopol)
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

Also, look for baby soaps and shampoos that specifically state that they are formaldehyde and preservative-free. Finding natural materials will help you avoid many of these chemicals. 

5. Sulfates 

Sulfates help make the foam in bubble baths and cleaning materials. SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) may be found in personal care products and cleaning agents such as shampoos, toothpaste, liquid soaps, bath bombs,and laundry and dish detergents. These chemicals can do a great job cleaning oil off of many different surfaces.

Exposure to sulfates can cause skin irritation and exacerbate eczema in babies. The chemical can also cause eye and respiratory problems [10]. Sodium Laureth sulfate (SLES) can break down into 1,4-dioxane, a chemical linked to cancer. 

Staying away from sulfates is pretty easy. The problem is you may have to experiment with the new bubble baths. Many replacements don’t foam up and clean as well as the sulfate version. It can be challenging to find products with the same foaming effect. 

6. Synthetic Fragrances

There are plenty of wonderful natural smells. It is, however, critical to note that scents may be dangerous for your baby, especially if they come from synthetic chemicals. These chemicals show up in personal care products (shampoo, body wash, hand soap, bubble bath, lotion), cleaners, and toys. 

Synthetic fragrances can include benzene derivatives and aldehydes, which are carcinogens. Some can have toluene, a neurotoxin [11] that can attack the nervous system. These can build up when used around your baby and cause many problems for them as they mature. 

Whenever possible, use unscented or naturally scented products. Food-grade essential oils are a great way to add a fun smell to baby products. 

7. Talc 

You can find talc in a variety of baby powders. It is also in many personal products and makeup. 

Talc can be contaminated with many dangerous materials, including asbestos. There has been concern about talc causing cancer since the 1970s [12]. Many pediatricians also warn about using too much of the powder as, if inhaled by your baby, talc can cause respiratory problems.  

The best way to avoid talc and the negative effects is to stay away from baby powder entirely. Drying your baby with a towel is better for their skin and lungs. If you have to use baby powder, talc-free is your best bet. Use it sparingly, so your child doesn’t inhale the powder. 


PFAS are a group of chemicals that include perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl. PFAS are used in a variety of products such as clothing, furniture, and cookware (teflon non-stick coating contains PFAS too). You also can find them in water, seafood, and some food packaging.

These chemicals do not naturally break down and have been found to accumulate in the human body and the environment.

There are currently many studies into the adverse effects of PFAS [13]. They show possible links to higher cholesterol, hormone imbalance, and compromised immune systems. In high quantities, they can damage the liver and kidneys. 

Many of these tests are still trying to figure out how bad PFAS are for people, especially babies. It is best to avoid these whenever possible until more is known. One way to get away from PFAS is to use non-stick alternatives, like ceramics, for your cookware. 

You can also get reports on water tests in your area or test your water yourself to find out if there are PFAS in the water you drink. If so, you may want to get an alternative water source for both you and your child. There are many filtered water options that can help you out. 

9. Flame Retardants 

Companies use flame retardants in a lot of baby products in an attempt to make them safer for your child. When added to different materials, flame retardants can help prevent fires from starting or limit their spread. But, unfortunately, if they use the wrong type, they may cause harm to the infant over time. 

You can find toxic flame retardants in car seats, nursing pillows, mats, changing tables, high chairs, strollers and toys. 

You won’t notice many of the problems that flame retardants  can cause immediately. They can lead to developmental disorders, lower IQ, ADHD, and immune disorders. Flame retardants can also cause hormone disorders, early puberty, and cancer. One of the most disturbing things about flame retardants is that there are now claims that they can cause worse fires [14].

The best way to avoid flame retardants is to get naturally flame-resistant materials. These include cotton and wool. Also, try to stay away from foam baby toys and items. When purchasing products, look for things that say they don’t use added flame retardant. 

10. Triclosan

Triclosan is a powerful pesticide and chemical with antibacterial properties. It can be found in personal care products (soaps and body washes, toothpastes), clothing, cookware (dish liquid, sponges, cutting boards), furniture, children’s items (bibs, toys and playground equipment).

Triclosan may cause changes to the human hormone system, harming reproduction and development [15]. Recent studies suggest triclosan may increase a child’s risk of developing allergies. 

The best way to avoid the chemical is to stop using antibacterial and antimicrobial soaps for you and your baby. Always read ingredient labels on any personal care product carefully.

11. Lead 

Lead is a metal found in the earth, and it is a poison. Children can be exposed to lead through soil and water, lead paint, household dust, children’s products (which are made of vinyl or plastic, such as car seats, backpacks, lunch boxes), and food [16].

Dust from lead paint is still the number one source of childhood lead poisoning. The US government banned lead paint in 1978, but it still shows up on painted walls in old houses. 

Lead causes developmental issues in children. It can damage the whole nervous system, which can lead to many problems as the baby matures. It can also slow growth and can cause hearing and speech problems [17].

Dishonorable Mentions 

The following ingredients to avoid in baby products didn’t make it into the top 11 spots. They are still things that you will want to avoid if you can. Many of these have only cursory studies on their potential problems. You should look for alternatives to these products to protect your baby. 

  • Chlorine Bleach: A great disinfectant, but it can cause skin irritation and asthma 
  • Ammonium: Possible link to asthma 
  • Monoethanolamine: Found in detergents, may contribute to asthma 
  • Glycol Ethers: Found in glass cleaners, may cause developmental disorders 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are a lot of ingredients to avoid in baby products. Ensuring your baby is safe is a never-ending job. But when you know what to avoid, it can help you make the right decisions when buying baby products. 

Whenever possible, try to choose natural alternatives. This will help you avoid harsh chemicals that may have side effects. New studies are always taking place, so it is hard to keep up, but many natural products have already been studied and approved to help your baby.