Loading... Please wait...

Concerns About Phthalates

Concerns About Phthalates

F-TH-what? It’s a crazy looking word with a strange pronunciation. The actual pronunciation is THAH-lates. So what ARE they? And why should you be concerned about them and buy phthalate free products? 

Let’s start with a definition. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines Phthalates as follows:

 “Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in the manufacture of plastics. They often are called plasticizers. Phthalates can prolong the lifespan or durability of plastics and increase the flexibility of some plastics. In addition, phthalates have been used as solvents for other materials. They are used in hundreds of products, including vinyl flooring; adhesives; detergents; lubricating oils; food packaging; automotive plastics; plastic clothing such as raincoats; and personal-care products such as soap, shampoo, hair spray, and nail polish.”

Until recently, Phthalates were not discussed much. There was not a huge concern that this group of chemicals was causing any harm. However, as a result of a few events, they have now risen to the top of many environmental groups’ lists as a chemical that is causing great distress to both the environment and our bodies.

In 2000, the US Centers for Disease Control released results from a ground-breaking study they performed on “average Americans”. In this study, urine was tested and the scientists found seven types of phthalates in the 289 people tested. The most disturbing was that every person tested was found to have dibutyl phthalate (DBP), the most toxic of the phthalates.

The CDC wrote in their study that “phthalate exposure is both higher and more common than previously suspected.

OK – so you may be thinking, what’s the big deal? How does this impact me? My children?

Well, there are many concerns about the effects of phthalates. The most significant is its possible link to defects in the human male reproductive system. Studies first showed that phthalates emasculate male rats. Concerning? Absolutely. So more research was done. Then in June 2005, the University of Rochester Medical Center reported findings on its own study that tied high levels of phthalates in the mom’s body to abnormalities in their baby boy’s male sexual development. The study showed that mom’s exposure to phthalates can contribute to the emasculation of her sons.

Now – compound that with the fact that the 2000 CDC study found that women in childbearing years had disproportionately high levels of phthalates in their bodies.YIPES.

And that’s just the biggest concern. Phthalates have also been linked to pre-mature breast development in girls (2000 study by Puerto Rican scientists Colon et al.) as well as DNA damage to sperm and impact on sperm quality based on 3 separate studies in 2002 and 2003. 

So what can you do about it? Here are some simple ways for you and your family to avoid phthalates as much as possible:

  • Avoid consumer products with phthalates. This is the trickiest – because often phthalates aren’t even listed as an ingredient. So the best way is to avoid products with chemical fragrance (where phthalates try to “hide out” inconspicuously – companies don’t have to list ingredients in their fragrances). Some common chemical abbreviations for phthalates include: DHP, DEP, DEHP, BzBP, BMP.
  • Don’t buy products that have a strong plastic-y smell (like strong smelling shower curtains.
  • Choose plastic products with recycling codes 1, 2 or 5. Codes 3 and 7 are the most likely to have phthalates or bisphenol A (another toxin).

Keep an eye out for more about phthalates in the news and why you should by phthalate free products for your skin. This is one chemical that you will be hearing more about in coming months.