Phthalates, what are they?
Phthalates, a chemical that can possibly cause infertility and decrease testosterone & sperm count….did that catch your attention? Many of you have probably never heard of Phthalate Esters, but they are a class of chemicals we are constantly surrounded by and probably have in our bodies.
- Phthalate esters are a group of chemicals used as a plasticizer in plastics and a solvent in personal care products.
Why are they used?
- Phthalates are used in majority of cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, perfumes, conditioners and several other personal care products as a solvent.
- They allow plastics to be more flexible, transparent and increase the longevity of plastic.
- Phthalates are found in: cosmetics, shampoo, lotions, toys, cable wires, medication, paint, canned food, dental & medical materials, wood varnishes, food containers, floor tiles, PVC flooring and most plastic products.
How is it bad for me?
- Due to their chemical properties and lack of covalent bonds, phthalates leach from plastics and solvents extremely easily.
- NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) data shows that Phthalate were found in 78% of the 2541 sampled.
- Studies are still being conducted to further understand phthalates but they may be linked to the following:
- Decreased sperm count
- Decreased pulmonary function
- Brain development in fetus and infants
- Reproductive development
- Endocrine and Thyroid disruption
- Anti-androgen effects
- Obesity and type II diabetes
- Many argue that these health concerns are only seen at high levels of phthalate exposure. However, since phthalates are in several plastic products and cosmetics, the cumulative effect on our bodies can be rather high.
How does it get into my body?
- Phthalates exposure comes from several routes such as ingestion, inhalation and dermal exposure.
- Majority of exposure is primarily through dust and food ingestion.
What can I do?
- Purchase lotions, shampoos, cosmetics and other personal care products that say phthalate free. Unfortunately companies are not required to list phthalates in their ingredient list, so the only way to know if a product does not contain phthalates is if it states “phthalate free”
- Dust & vacuum often, like several other chemicals, our exposure is through dust particles that contain them
- Purchase toys that are phthalate free…especially chew toys
- Limit your use of plastic, especially as food containers and use glass or stainless steal instead.
- The European Union has banned/phased out phthalates in several products, especially toys.
- The US EPA has phased out three phthalates, DEHP, BBP, and DBP. However there are several other phthalates that are still commonly used in cosmetics, personal care products and toys.
- Unfortunately there is little regulation on products that are imported from other countries into the US, so it is unknown what the phthalate content is.