According to a new study in published in Science Translational Medicine about 75 percent of a pill or capsule of an oral medication is made up of inactive ingredients that may have hidden dangers. These ingredients merely serve as binders, fillers or coloring, using ingredients like dyes, parabens, phthalates, talc and gluten, that can contain potentially toxic effects.
It’s important for parents to recognize that the inactive ingredients in over-the-counter (OTC) medications can potentially present a bigger problem when it comes to children, as their bodies are smaller than an adult, and they could have unknown allergies or sensitivities to certain ingredients. Parents shouldn’t have to worry that the medication they’re giving their children to feel better could actually be having the opposite effect.
Checking the labels before giving any medication to your children is a step toward prevention. Here are five specific ingredients to avoid:
Parabens are preservatives used to prolong the shelf life of medications, and avoiding these is important to ensure proper hormone function. Parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen and can disrupt the endocrine system, which may affect hormone function in children and lead to early puberty in adolescents. Studies have linked parabens to breast cancer and tumor growth, as well as adverse effects on the male reproductive system.
Phthalates are used to make plastic products more flexible and are commonly used in building products such as PVC or vinyl plastic, as well as consumer products like our medications. These chemicals have been linked to problems such as childhood obesity, damage of the reproductive system, heightened allergy and asthma symptoms, and altered behavior in toddlers.
Artificial food colors have been associated with worsened attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in children. The European Union has restricted many of the dyes commonly used in the United States and requires warning labels for products containing them. However, seven artificial dyes are still approved in the United States for use in our medications, and most OTC medications available today use synthetic dyes.
Pediatricians recommend against using talc-based baby powder on children because inhaling the powder can cause lung damage and respiratory issues for infants. Some forms of talc have been shown to be contaminated with asbestos fibers, and even non-contaminated talc can be toxic and a carcinogenic. Talc has also been linked to thousands of cases of ovarian cancer.
If your child has celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it’s important to know if your medications contain gluten as this could be making your child feel worse. If you are keeping your child’s diet gluten free but noticing they are still having symptoms it may be due to gluten found in inactive ingredients of the medicines so be sure to check the labels.
The idea that the medications we give our own children to improve their health could actually be causing more problems is eye opening, but the good news is there are innovative companies out there that recognize the potential implications of this and are removing potentially toxic inactive ingredients from routine medicines.