Recently we looked at 3 food additives that we all need to avoid: high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, and monosodium glutamate or MSG. While high fructose corn syrup and trans fats are easy to spot if you read the ingredient list on your food label (not the marketing hype), MSG is a lot tougher to spot because it can be appear as yeast extract, autolyzed yeast or something prefaced with the word hydrolyzed. In fact there are dozens of ingredients that contain MSG hidden within the foods you regularly eat and consuming them can lead to headaches, migraines, mood swings, heart irregularities, asthma,  gastrointestinal distress and cancer.

While it can be hard in our busy world today, there is simply no way around it: you have to read the labels on processed or packaged food that you buy and the products you use. As adults, we can take on that responsibility, but it is shocking to learn how many products targeted toward infants and children contain harmful additives that can be even more damaging to their developing bodies. Beyond MSG, which is found in many snack foods such as crackers (kid-favorite Goldfish crackers included), another additive we need to be on the look out for and avoid is TBHQ, or Tertiary Butylhydroquinone.

TBHQ is a chemical preservative that is a form of butane (yes, the same butane we put into cigarette lighters). It is allowable in small doses as a food preservative to extend the shelf life of food. The FDA allows for 0.02% of the total oils in food to be TBHQ. It would take dosages of 1-4 grams to cause an immediate reaction in an adult, which could manifest as nausea, delirium, tinnitus, or vomiting (5 grams would lead to death). TBHQ has been shown to cause ADHD or hyperactivity in kids, it impacts estrogen levels in women, and has been shown to lead to pre-cancerous tumors and DNA damage.

While by FDA standards, there is quite some room between the allowable level and the amount that results in a reaction, kids are more sensitive, and because it is found in so many different products, young people may be consuming more than you realize. The FDA is also only tracking allowable levels for a single consumption, not the accumulated effect of eating it consistently over a long period of time.

TBHQ is found in many crackers including Cheez-Its, Teddy Grahams, Oreos, and it’s found in McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets (while you know I am not a supporter of fast food, if you ever take kids or grandkids or nieces/nephews out for a Happy Meal, now that McDonald’s has removed pink slime from its burgers, the hamburger is a better nutritional option than Chicken Nuggets). It is also found in frozen fish products, bread, waffles, potato chips, oil, margarine, and ice cream.

Thankfully, TBHQ is listed on the ingredient level so you can easily spot it and avoid all products that contain it.

Before we leave kids and additives, I want to talk briefly about additives in cosmetics and bath products. Not regulated as strictly as food, there are a host of carcinogenic ingredients out there in your personal care products. We’ll talk more about this another time, but I do just want to call attention to baby products, as who is more vulnerable to toxin exposure than an infant?

For the last few years, while we have been waging the fight against ammonia-laden pink slime beef, another battle has been underway to try to remove two known carcinogens from kids’ bath products including Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. While Johnson and Johnson makes a version of its baby shampoo without these toxins for sale in China and Europe, which do not allow use of these chemicals, it has continued to sell the carcinogenic formula in the US.

Johnson and Johnson recently stated that the chemicals it is using are approved by US regulators and that it will attempt to reduce to below detectable levels or gradually phase out the chemicals, a result of public pressure from consumer groups such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. But it hasn’t indicated whether it will remove them completely.

One of the chemicals in question, quaternium-15, is a preservative that kills bacteria by releasing formaldehyde. Quaternium-15 was listed as a known human carcinogen recently. (By the way, formaldehyde is also a eye, skin and respiratory irritant: ironic since the product markets itself under the tagline “no more tears”). 82% of products tested contained formaldehyde; the highest level was found in Baby Magic Baby Lotion.

The other chemical, known as 1,4-dioxane, is a byproduct of the process used during manufacturing to make chemicals gentler on the skin and is considered a likely carcinogen. The European Union does not allow any amount of 1,4-dioxane in any personal care products, but 32 of the 48 kids products tested in the US contained it and 60% of all products tested contained both of the carcinogens.

In addition to Johnson and Johnson, other products causing concern included: Suave Kids 2-in-1 Shampoo, CVS Baby Shampoo and Body Wash, Sesame Street Bubble Bath, Tinker Bell Scented Bubble Bath, L’Oreal Kids Extra Gentle 2-in-1 Fast Dry Shampoo, Hot Wheels Berry Blast Bubble Bath, Barbie Berry Sweet Bubble Bath, Dora the Explorer Bubble Bath, Equate Tearless Baby Wash, Huggies Cucumber and Green Tea Baby Wash and Aveeno Baby Wash.

The study concluded that while using the products once would likely pose no harm, using them repeatedly could be a cause for concern. So if you have infants in your life, or know someone who does, pass this on, as anything we can do to limit their exposure to unhealthy ingredients and agents during their early years will lighten their toxic load and help lead to a longer, healthier life.

You can find a complete list of tested products at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ website.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!



Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art

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