My baby lotion is labelled parapen, petroleum and phthalate-free. But the label also lists parfum. Could this be a natural parfum or are there hidden chemicals in baby lotion?
Diane Fabbricino, Calgary
You’re not alone. Lots of people trying to avoid harmful chemicals — like parabens, petrolatum and phthalates — are stumped when they run into parfum or fragrance on a label. The truth is we as consumers (and moms) don’t know what’s in parfum.
When the David Suzuki Foundation invited Canadians to read the labels on their personal care products and look for a “dirty dozen” harmful ingredients, parfum was the one most commonly found — in 56 per cent of the products entered. And like you, 62 per cent of the 6,200 people who took our survey were already carefully reading ingredient lists.
Parfum is a code word that can represent any number of unspecified fragrance chemicals. More than 3,000 chemicals are used as fragrances, but manufacturers are not required by law to disclose them. In other words, there’s no way you can tell which of those 3,000-plus chemicals are in the parfum in your baby lotion from reading the label. Call or write the manufacturer.
Every company should have a contact form or a toll-free number on the product packaging, or on their website. Then, ask them what’s in their parfum.
You’re definitely on track when it comes to reducing your baby’s exposure to harmful chemicals. Now avoid parfum. In most cases, it’s a matter of scrolling to the end of the ingredient list on personal care products. It’s almost always lurking at the bottom. And visit davidsuzuki.org to send our Health Minister a valentine asking her to require manufacturers to disclose specific fragrance ingredients.
Lindsay Coulter gives you the straight goods on living green. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more great tips, visit The David Suzuki Foundation at davidsuzuki.org.