An ingredient found in many shampoos and other personal care products appears to interfere with normal brain development in baby mice when applied to the skin of their pregnant mothers, so it might be a bad idea for pregnant PEOPLE to use it as well.

Researchers have discovered that Diethanolamine (DEA) was applied to the skin of pregnant mice, the fetuses showed inhibited cell growth and increased cell death in an area of the brain responsible for memory?the hippocampus. DEA appears to block the body’s ability to absorb the nutrient choline, which is essential for normal development of the brain. A pregnant woman requires extra choline so that she can pass the nutrient on to the fetus. Researcher Steven Zeisel says, “You need choline to build a baby.”

DEA was also implicated in early miscarriages of mice. More than 100,000 tons of DEA are sold in the United States each year, where it is used as a wetting or thickening agent in not only shampoos but also such products as hand soaps, hairsprays and sunscreens. Some of the names for DEA are: Lauramide diethanolamine, Coco Diethanolamide, coconut oil amide of diethanolamine, Lauramide DEA, Lauric diethanolamide, Lauroyl diethanolamide and Lauryl diethanolamide.

The dose of DEA a person might get from shampooing is at least 10 times lower than the dose found to interfere with brain development in the study, so whether the amounts most people absorb from personal care products would cause harm remains unclear. Zeisel and his colleagues are now doing further work to find out the lowest dose that affects mice, a process that could take about a year. Zeisel says, “I don’t believe any woman who’s been using these products needs to have a sleepless night about having caused harm to her child. At this point it is a caution, but it would probably be prudent to look at labels and try to limit exposure until we know more.”

To find out if the shampoo YOU’RE using is dangerous, click here, then click on the product name.

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