Tips For Getting Artificial Dyes Out of Your Toddler’s Environment

By Subodh / March 17, 2014

Most parents are aware that there is some negative buzz about artificial dyes in the media and want to know if they are harmful to their toddler’s health. If you ever want to be more concerned about artificial dyes in your child’s environment, do a Google search for it. You can begin to type the word in the search box, and the pull down menu for it displays artificial dyes and ADHD, artificial dyes and cancer, artificial dyes and autism and a whole slew of disorders linked to the fake dyes. That’s a disturbing trend, and you haven’t even really started the search yet!

Still, the Internet can be a Chicken Little about these kinds of things, and you can get stirred up without a lot of solid information to back it up if you’re not careful. It doesn’t hurt to go ahead and get some artificial dyes out of your child’s environment immediately.

For instance, the next time your toddler spills mac and cheese in their playard, you can remove the fabric and wash it in a dye-free washing detergent (why does boxed macaroni and cheese have to glow in the dark, by the way? Yuck!). Don’t have a playard with removable material? You can research online to get ideas of playards that have easily removable fabric features.

It’s usually an easy fix to wash your child’s clothes without fake dyes, and your toddler’s sensitive skin will probably thank you for it. Getting it out of everything in their environment is going to take quite a bit more work because companies have been adding them to a lot of different household products and foods for a long time. Why do they do it? They do it because these fake colorings are cheaper, stable and brighter than most natural colorings – and they know, just as you do, that little children like bright colored foods.

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For instance, fake colorings are in many brightly colored candies, sodas and fruit drinks, and they’re even in foods that don’t have any color such as white frosting and marshmallows. They’re also in shampoos and toothpaste. They’re in so many products that it makes it hard to avoid them. However, are these chemicals safe? Could you be putting your toddler at risk? Some studies suggest it may be a good idea to take them out of your child’s diet because they may be harming their health. Consider the following studies on the subject:

Artificial Dyes and Adverse Effects on Your Child

Many corporations have argued that artificial colorings are innocuous, and fruit-cocktail producers even swayed the Department of Agriculture to block the Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to ban Red#3 as a food additive. Our children are now eating red maraschino cherries that cause thyroid cancer in lab rats when they are fed massive quantities of it. Similarly, purple and orange food colorings have been shown to impair mental functions and other fake colorings have been linked to toxicity of the brain.1

The FDA has been looking into a connection between artificial dyes and harmful health effects for years. They announced in 2010 that artificial dyes make some children with ADHD and other behavioral problem behaviors worse. Children with ADHD who participated in studies that consumed food and drink that contained artificial dyes had increased hyperactivity, one of the symptoms of ADHD.

What is more unnerving are the results from a similar study conducted by the British government; the results from the study were instrumental in removing many artificial food dyes from grocery shelves in the UK and Europe. In this study, artificial dyes were combined with a common preservative, sodium benzoate. The preservative is found in many foods, and the researchers wanted to see what the effect these two substances had on children when they were ingested together.

The result was startling, and the fake color combined with the preservative made children with no diagnosed behavioral problems display symptoms of ADHD – namely hyperactivity and inattentiveness. The study found that after the artificial dye was removed from the children’s diet, their symptoms improved. So what is being done to remove artificial colors from shelves since they can be so harmful? Maybe not enough when it comes to the United States.

Efforts to Remove Fake Colors from Grocery Shelves

It may be surprising to some to find out that ingredients in hundreds of foods are made from chemicals and petroleum-based substances. Many brands of carrot cake mixes contain “carrot” pieces that are actually a mixture of corn syrup and the fake colorings, Yellow #6 and Red #40. One popular fruit drink has a label that states that it contains cherries and berries, even though “cherries and berries” is obviously a relative term to the drink manufacturer. The “fruit” drink is actually 100% artificially colored with no fruit juice at all in its mix.

In light of health concerns of fake colorings, many grassroot campaigners are requesting that companies remove the fake dyes from their products. The public pressure has already led Kraft to halt the addition of fake colorings in some of their macaroni and cheese products. They now use natural ingredients like beta carotene and paprika to get that familiar yellow coloring.

In a similar fashion, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer watchdog group, is pressuring the FDA to put warning labels on foods that contain artificial colorings (Reader’s Digest). Right now it’s the “Buyer Beware” rule on other products that contain them, and many parents wonder how they can get artificial dyes out of their toddler’s diet. The following tips are suggested to help remove them.

Tips to Avoid Artificial Dyes in Food

You can work to avoid artificial food coloring in what your toddler eats by doing the following:

  • Give your child more natural and organic food. 
  • Check for Blue #1, Blue #2, Green #3, Red #40, Red #3, Yellow #5, and Yellow #6 on product labels.
  • Search food labels for the statement that it contains natural coloring. Some natural food coloring includes the following: beet powder, caramel coloring, vegetable juice and saffron.
  • Flavor your toddler’s milk with pureed strawberries and blueberries instead of artificial flavoring.
  • Limit or completely avoid processed food and treats that are brightly colored.

There’s a perk toward getting artificial dyes out of your toddler’s diet: limiting them means them consuming less processed foods, which cuts down on sugar and introduces a source of good nutrition from them. As soon as you get the artificial dyes out of your toddler’s food, then you can start working on getting them out of their non-food products such as toothpaste, shampoo and medicine. Use the same method to check labels and eliminate harsh chemicals and colors from your child’s surroundings. They aren’t needed to get clothes clean.