Test: Which chemicals are used in baby wet wipes?

28. feb 2019

Wet wipes are practical when you are out and around with your baby. However, on a daily basis and at home water and wash cloths are the best choice when changing nappies.

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Test: Unwanted chemicals in baby wet wipes
Photo: The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Baby wet wipes may contain perfume

Wet wipes may contain perfume or plant extracts associated with allergy risk. In the test 10 wet wipes contained perfume, which triggers the lowest rating.

Young children can develop perfume allergy and the allergy last a lifetime. The risk of getting perfume allergy increases the more the child is exposed to perfume.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals recommends that you avoid perfume and other allergenic substances in products for children and babies.

See the chemical test of baby wet wipes with product pictures (in Danish)

Baby wet wipes are not for everyday use

The phrase 'for daily use' can be written on packages of wet wipes. It may also be mentioned on the packaging that they are “mild” or “as clean as water”.

However, baby wet wipes should be considered a cosmetic product that leaves ingredients on the baby's skin. Ingredients that scientists do not necessarily know all about.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals therefore recommends to use washing cloth and water at home when you change your child’s nappy or clean their hands and face.

Baby wet wipes without unwanted chemicals are an alternative to water when traveling and other situations where there is no easy access to water.

If you have further questions contact project manager Stine Müller on sm@fbr.dk

Read about all tests performed by the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

How we tested

In January 2019, The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals bought all available baby wet wipes on the Danish market.

The test includes 37 different products from Danish shops and web shops

The ingredient lists of the wet wipes have been reviewed for content of problematic chemicals for example substances that are suspected of being endocrine disruptors or that can cause allergy.

What we found

In the test, the 37 baby wet wipes receive the following chemical ratings:

• 18 products get the best chemical rating, the A-flask.
• 9 products get a medium chemical rating, the B-flask, among other things because of the content of the substance phenoxyethanol.
• 10 products get the lowest chemical rating, the C-flask. They contain perfume or plant extracts that can cause allergies.

The good choices in the test in many cases those products than have the Nordic swan and allergy label.

Products with C-rating contain the following substances:

• Perfume. Many fragrances can cause allergies. The Danish Consumer Council Think Chemicals recommends to avoid perfume in baby and children's products.
• Plant extracts. A number of plant extracts have been assessed as allergenic by the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS). The Danish Consumer Council Think Chemicals cannot recommend the use of these plant extracts in baby and children's products.

Products with B-rating contain the following substances:

• Phenoxyethanol. It is a preservative that the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety, ANSES, consider should not be used in products intended for the diaper area of ​​children. Children are generally more vulnerable. The sometimes irritated skin in the diaper area will be able to absorb the substance to a greater extent. Last but not least children are exposed to several different cosmetic products that all can contain phenoxyethanol. Therefore, according to ANSES, children may be exposed to more of the substance than what is considered safe.
• Chamomile and calendula extract. Asteraceae flowers such as chamomile and marigold can cause allergies. However, the risk of the flower extracts in baby care products is not known, but from a precautionary principle, the Danish Consumer Council Think Chemicals generally recommends baby products without chamomile and similar plant extracts.

Do not throw wet wipes in the toilet

Far from all wet wipes state what material the napkin itself is made of.

In the cases where it is stated it is typically a mixture of polyethylene and viscose. Polyethylene is plastic, viscose is made of cellulose. Some products indicate that they are made of cotton.

Regardless of material, it is important not to throw the wet wipes into the toilet, as neither plastic, cotton or cellulose in the form of napkins are sufficiently soluble in the sewage system. Instead they can block and damage the system.

The wet wipes should instead always be thrown in the rubbish bin.

This also applies for the products where it is stated that the wet wipes are biodegradable.

What the companies said

Matas
"At Matas, we want products that are free from problematic chemicals, not least in products for vulnerable groups such as babies. Therefore, we have initiated a reformulation of the product so that we in the future can have a product that is free of phenoxyethanol."

Dagrofa
"Both our wet wipes (Green Balance and First price, ed.) will be stopped during 2019, and products with new formulations without phenoxyethanol will come at the end of 2019."

Procter & Gamble
"All Pampers baby wipes comply with rigorous safety assessment procedures that ensure our products are completely safe to use. Pampers wipes are also in full compliance with Danish regulatory requirements.

The light scent added to one of the two versions of the Pampers baby wipes is communicated on the front of the pack (“Baby fresh scent”) to enable consumers’ purchase decisions."

Phenoxyethanol in wetwipes

Use of the preservative phenoxyethanol in baby care products is debated.

Several wet wipes still contain the substance. This also applies for some products with the Nordic swan and allergy label.

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety, ANSES, maintains, in its assessment from spring 2018, that it discourages the use of the substance in baby products especially those intended for the nappy area.

This despite the fact that the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) has previously released their opinion stating that the substance is safe to use in all products including baby products intended for the diaper area.

Based on the French authorities' concern about the use of phenoxyethnaol and as a precautionary principle, the Danish Consumer Council Think Chemicals recommends baby wet wipes without phenoxyethanol.

Presence of phenoxyethanol in wet wipes gives an average chemical score.

Phenoxyethanol is present in 8 out of the 37 products tested. This is considerably fewer than when we looked at wet wipes back in 2014.

Some of the manufacturers of wet wipes with phenoxyethanol have informed the Danish Consumer Council Think Chemicals that they are in the process of phasing out phenoxyethanol in their products.

Link to the ANSES assessment of phenoxyethanol (In French)

Link to the SCCS Opinion on phenoxyethanol