Baby wipes increase children’s risk of developing life-threatening food allergies, new research suggests.
Immune reactions to everyday produce like nuts, eggs and soy may be brought on by a ‘perfect storm’ of baby wipes, dust and food exposure, a study found today in a ‘major advance’.
Researchers believe this is due to an ingredient in soap found in baby wipes, known as sodium lauryl sulphate, lingering on infants’ skin and disrupting its protective fatty barrier.
In youngsters with genetic mutations that predispose them to allergies, this disruption could lead to immune reactions if they are, for instance, kissed by a sibling with peanut butter on their face, according to the US researchers.
The scientists recommend parents reduce their youngsters’ food allergy risk by washing their hands before touching them and rinsing off excess soap after baby wipe use.
Around one in 13 children in the US suffer from at least one food allergy, according to Food Allergy Research Education.
Baby wipes increase children’s risk of developing life-threatening food allergies (stock)
WHAT IS SODIUM LAURYL SULPHATE?
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) is a common additive that causes cleaning products to create a foam.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), SLS is a ‘moderate hazard’ that has been linked to cancer, organ toxicity, skin irritation and hormone disruption.
SLS can be found in most body washes, soaps, baby wipes, shampoos, toothpastes and laundry detergents.
Although it is a derivative of coconuts, SLS is contaminated with a toxic byproduct during manufacturing.
This by-product, known as 1,4 dioxane, is defined as being ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ and may affect the kidneys, liver and central nervous system, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
SLS may appear on product labels under sodium dodecyl sulfate, sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, sodium salt sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, aquarex me or aquarex methyl.
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review reports SLS is a skin irritant at concentration above two per cent.
Most personal-care produces include SLS at around one per cent.
Undiluted SLS can cause skin and eye irritation, as well as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, if ingested, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The EWG recommends people use SLS-containing products with caution as our bodies lack the enzymes needed to break such chemicals down, causing them to accumulate.
Source: Live Strong
Food ‘enters’ newborns via their skin
The researchers analysed food and environmental allergen exposure in newborn mice with the same skin-related genetic mutations that occur in humans.
When rodents’ skin was exposed to peanuts, this alone induced no allergic response.
Lead author Professor Joan Cook-Mills said: ‘Then I thought about what are babies exposed to.
‘They are exposed to environmental allergens in dust in a home.
‘They may not be eating food allergens as a newborn, but they are getting them on their skin.
‘Say a sibling with peanut butter on her face kisses the baby. Or a parent is preparing food with peanuts and then handles the baby. ‘
Professor Cook-Mills then investigated skin studies that assessed the impact of soap, saying: ‘I thought “oh my gosh!’ That’s infant wipes!”‘
After the study’s mice were exposed to food and dust on their skin three-to-four times for 40 minutes over two weeks, they were given pieces of egg or peanuts to eat.
As a result, the animals suffered allergic reactions at the site of skin exposure, as well as in their intestines.
Their body temperatures also fell, which indicates the severe food allergy anaphylaxis.
Professor Cook-Mills added: ‘It’s a major advance in our understanding of how food allergy starts early in life.’
How to reduce children’s allergy risk
Speaking of how parents can lower their children’s risk of such reactions, Professor Cook-Mills said: ‘Reduce baby’s skin exposure to food allergens by washing your hands before handling the baby.
‘Limit use of infant wipes that leave soap on the skin. Rinse soap off with water like we used to do years ago. ‘
On the back of the findings, the researchers plan to carry out further studies investigating how food allergies can be prevented in children.
Professor Cook-Mills added: ‘The goal is to determine unique signals in the skin that occur during development of food allergy.
‘This will lead to approaches to intervene with those skin signals and block the development of food allergy.’
The findings were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Allergens like peanut butter may enter babies’ bodies from their siblings’ faces (stock)