What are Phthalates?
Welcome back to our “The Truth about Skincare Ingredients” Blog Series! If you missed the last blog on parabens, you can still read it here.
Today, we’re going to get a little deeper on phthalates, if you can’t even pronounce it, do you really know what it is and how it’s impacting your health? It’s pronounced like this, “THA-LATE”
What are phthalates? And where are they found?
Defined by the CDC as “a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break.” These chemicals are literally found everywhere from vinyl flooring to consumer products.
In the U.S., phthalate exposure is common. We are exposed to phthalates by doing everyday things, such as eating and drinking foods that have contact with or are contained in containers with phthalates exposure. Spices are known to contain phthalates as are liquids stored and sold in plastic containers.
Researchers found phthalates in more than 70% of personal care products. In a different research, it was found that women have higher levels of phthalate in their bodies than men. No doubt there are some correlations there.
Below are a list of common products containing phthalates:
- PVC-shower curtains, blinds, inflatable toys/mattresses
- Vinyl flooring
- Plastic Rain gear, toys (FDA has started to regulate more heavily), jewelry
- Some food and food packaging (plastics, spices, etc.) – FDA has started to regulate more heavily
- Some medication and medical devices
- Some air fresheners and scented candles
- Personal care products – special attention to nail polish, hairspray, body products with “fragrance” or “perfume”, baby powder, lotions and soaps (even in “natural products)
How is phthalate dangerous?
Low level exposure to phthalates in humans are still unknown, however, in testing with lab animals it is found that repeated and long term exposure to phthalates can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system. In the past few years research for phthalates have increased, resulting in researchers linking phthalates to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, developmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.
Companies are not required to list phthalates on consumer product labels and regulations in consumer products typically takes some time but with more knowledge on the chemical, there is still hope for crack down on labeling.
How consumers can avoid phthalates?
It may be difficult to avoid phthalates all together, but consumers can definitely take matters into their own hands and reduce the exposure to phthalates by doing the following:
- Check personal care products’ ingredient list. Don’t buy or use anything that has DEP, “fragrance” or “perfume” listed.
- Limit exposure to PVC
- Avoid plastic #s (recycling code) 3, 6 and 7, they may contain phthalates or other harmful chemical plastics.
- Use glass, wood, ceramic or stainless steel instead of plastic to store and reheat food and drinks. If you buy food in plastic remove and store in glass container as soon as you get home
- Avoid soft plastic toys, especially those manufactured before 2008.
- Eat organic food (in glass containers)
- Avoid packaged or fast food.
- Look for “phthalate free” on products.
- Wash hands frequently (with phthalate free soap)
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