According to a 2014 study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers led by associate clinical professor of dermatology and pediatrician Mary Wu Chang of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington found that a common preservative in wet wipes may cause severe allergic reactions in children. In the study, the wipes under scrutiny were manufactured by the Kimberly-Clark Corp.
The preservative, methylisothiazolinone (MI), is not a new ingredient; the study notes that MI was previously used in conjunction with other preservatives but has been increasingly used on its own. The altered formulation is thought to be responsible for this new outcropping of allergic reactions, though research is still ongoing.
Each of the children in the study exhibited similar symptoms — swelling, rashes, blistering, cracking, and even disfiguring patches on their faces, hands, and buttocks (depending on where they were exposed to the wipes) — all of which are common symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. To ensure that these reactions were caused specifically by MI, each patient underwent patch testing with the allergen. Ceasing contact with the wipes alleviated the symptoms.
HealthDay reports that Kimberly-Clark spokesman Bob Brand has issued the following statement regarding this study:
“While our wipe products remain safe for use, we recognize that recent studies have raised concerns about the use of MI as a preservative ingredient. We have been evaluating alternative preservative options over the past few years, and are now ready to confirm that, beginning this month, Kimberly-Clark will start introducing new wet wipes that are MI-free across its entire product range in the U.S., Canada, Europe and other global markets.”
It’s worth noting, however, that MI may not be the only allergen present in baby wipes, and any of those other ingredients may trigger a similar reaction. Dr. Carla Davis, director of the food allergy program at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, tells HealthDay:
“We’re talking about a very small proportion of people who will have a problem with MI, so, really, parents should be comfortable using wipes until or unless their child develops a rash that doesn’t resolve in the regular manner. But if that happens and the rash is persistent, then the wipes could be a problem and testing should be pursued by a dermatologist.”