Ever hear of phthalates? (pronounced THAL-ates)? Can’t say it? It’s probably not a good thing. These are plasticizing and softening chemicals used in a wide array of consumer products, especially those containing PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
You are probably exposed to them every day. They are present in vinyl flooring, shower curtains, children’s toys, medical devices, auto interiors, in the environment from industrial pollution, plastic bottles with the number <3> recycling symbol, plastic wraps and bags, and in: perfumes, nail polish and lotions.
So, since it is so prevalent, is there a reason to be concerned?
In animals, phthalates cause reproductive problems in male offspring. In people, mothers with high exposures gave birth to boys with malformed genitalia. Phthalates may also cause asthma as well as liver and kidney damage. Although phthalates don’t store in your body, don’t be fooled. Their levels remain constant in many people because of their constant exposure from beauty and household products.
Some hospitals, government agencies and manufacturers (Microsoft, Early Start, Little Tikes, Lego, Prime Time Playthings, Sassy, and Tiny Love to name a few) have realized the potential dangers of pthalates and have chosen to stop its use in their products. Europe banned a majority of phthalates in cosmetics in 2003, and has kept most phthalates out of toys since 1999. But the United States is a different story– the use of phthalates is mostly ungoverned. The manufacturing of cosmetics is regulated by the FDA, and thus far no steps have been taken by them to ban its use. What’s worse, manufacturers aren’t even required to list pthalates on their labels, so it’s next to impossible for the consumer to know it’s even there!
So what can you do to limit your exposure to these toxins?
Include as little vinyl in your household as possible. Choose natural flooring like bamboo or ceramic. Use cotton instead of plastic shower curtains. Choose glass bottles over plastic. And most of all–don’t use commercially made moisturizers, nail polishes or perfumes. Opt instead for a natural oil-based gloss for nails (like mineral oil or even olive oil) and other similar adjustments in your body care routine.
More good info on phthalates: