FDA: Vomiting, Burning and Pain From Using Baby Wipes, Other Kids’ Cosmetics

Vomiting. Burning sensation. Pain.

These are some of the effects children as young as 5 months experienced after using cosmetics and other personal care products, according to data collected by the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA received reports of adverse health effects caused by 132 different personal care products marketed to children, according to an EWG analysis.

The actual number of dangerous personal care products marketed to kids, and the actual number of kids harmed by cosmetics and other personal care products, is unknown. That’s because the makers of personal care products, unlike makers of drugs and medical devices, are not required to report these incidents to the FDA.

The reports of “adverse events” – the legal term the FDA uses to describe the harm associated with these products – were all made voluntarily by concerned consumers and doctors, as well as by manufacturers, raising concerns that the reported incidents are only the tip of the iceberg.

The FDA recently made these records publicly available by posting them to its online database of adverse health events, called CAERS. The database now includes reports of adverse health effects from personal care products since 2004. EWG’s review of the data on costume makeup and products with “kids” or “babies” in their names found adverse event reports on popular brands of baby wipes, shampoos, powders and lotions.

Reports identified 132 unique kids' and baby products. There were a total of 282 reports, more than one in five of which were associated with baby wipes. More than 60 percent of the reports were filed in the last three years. The health effects reported ranged from irritation and pain to rashes, blisters, chemical burns, eye injuries and infections.

A new study of the FDA database, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, found that reports for baby products were, on average, more severe than reports for other product categories. Of the events associated with baby products, more than half were classified as “serious.” This was much higher than the average rate of serious events reported among all other cosmetic product categories.

Baby wipes have raised concerns in recent years. Some baby wipes contain methylisothiazolinone, or MI, which has been linked to allergic reactions. Under current law, the FDA rarely reviews or regulates MI or other controversial chemicals in personal care products.

Bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, would require personal care product companies to report serious adverse events within 15 days and all adverse events once a year. The bill would also subject ingredients like MI to the FDA’s oversight and give the agency power to order recalls of dangerous products.

Parents should feel confident that baby products won’t hurt their children. This overdue legislation would help give them that assurance. 

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