What’s That Smell?

Dolce & Gabbana, for babies.

Dolce & Gabbana, for babies.

Stefano Gabbana announced via Instagram that Dolce & Gabbana will release a perfume “per i bambini” — for babies.

I think I just heard you say, “Ewwww! Seriously?”

Let’s skip past the discussion of why anyone would mask her baby’s delicious, natural smell. Instead, let’s review why perfumes and scented products are bad for babies.

Synthetic fragrances, identified on product labels as “parfum,” “perfume,” “natural fragrance,” or “fragrance,” contain phthalates. Phthalates are a group of industrial chemicals that are used in the production of plastic, solvents, and cosmetics. They are endocrine disruptors, known to cause a broad range of birth defects and lifelong reproductive impairment in male laboratory animals. Baby boys and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to the hormone-disrupting effects of phthalates. 84% of the U.S. population is contaminated with at least six different phthalates at any given time. (Read more at Environmental Working Group.)

Synthetic scents also have immediate effects. I know firsthand that perfumes trigger asthma and allergies, having sniffled and wheezed in their presence since I was a child. Contact dermatitis can occur on the skin where perfume or scented products are applied. Some scientists believe that overexposure to fragrance is a cause of the increased prevalence of allergies in children.

How can you lessen your baby’s exposure to phthalates?

412OyoefMfL._SY300_ • Use unscented baby products. Sweet William and Darling Fergus use Dr. Bronner’s unscented liquid castile soap for hands, body, and shampoo. Having tested a number of diaper creams, we’ve had the greatest success with Triple Paste ointment.

• Use unscented personal care products for yourself, too. You’ve noticed that perfume-wearers transfer their scent onto your babies, right? Ask your babysitters to avoid scented products on days they take care of your little ones. Pregnant women should be especially careful about avoiding scents, as phthalates cross the placenta.

• Replace your scented cleaning products. The next time you buy laundry detergent, make it fragrance-free. We like Green Shield Organic Laundry Detergent, Free & Clear.

• Never use air fresheners — not in the car, not in the bathroom, not anywhere in the house. They only mask smells, unnecessarily exposing your family to hazardous chemicals.

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