Phthalates have been used since the 1950’s and they are all around us.
Phthalates are chemicals that make plastic soft and flexible. They are used in polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC) such as shower curtains and water bottles. They are used in medical supplies such as intravenous bags and tubing. Unfortunately they are in children’s toys and children’s supplies. They are also found in cosmetics, nail polish and perfumes. Yikes!!! They are in our household electronics, car-care products, insecticides, many household products such as adhesives, plastic wrap, flooring, furniture, wallpaper and many other things made of vinyl. Phthalates leach out of the products they are used in and are continuously released into the air we breath and the food we eat and are absorbed into the skin we put the lotions on.
The Canadian Cancer Society is most concerned about the PVC plastics in children’s toys. Think about it this way. What do children do with their toys? They put them in their mouth and chew on them. They are exposing their bodies to toxins at such an early and vulnerable stage of their lives. This is just not right.
We are all exposed to phthalates on a daily basis. We get phthalates from food packaging, from drinking beverages from plastic bottles. We get phthalates from using scented cosmetic products, lotions, deoderants, nail polish, hair spray, baby products, creams, powders etc. These products are full of phthalates making the products more spreadable and absorbable. This means our skin is absorbing this toxin and sending it into the bloodstream.
A study from 2008 published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that babies who’s mothers applied baby lotion, baby shampoo and powder to them were more likely to have phthalates in their urine than babies who’s mother’s did not use these toxic products.
Another study done by a collection of health and environmental groups in 2002 showed 75% of 72 name-brand, off-the-shelf cosmetics tested came up positive for containing phthalates. They also found that women of childbearing age had the highest levels in their bodies, presumably because of their use of cosmetics.
We can also inhale phthalates from off-gassing of products. For example the seat material in cars off gasses phthalates. When you get into a hot car you are breathing in large amounts of phthalates. Best advice here is to immediately roll down your windows in your car to let out the toxic fumes when you first get into it.
There are two types of phthalates that have been studied extensively. DEHP is found in vinyl products and medical plastics. DINP is the other one found in wire and cables, flooring, toys and garden hoses.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, some studies show that DEHP causes liver tumours and fertility problems in rats and mice. Several studies have shown that exposure to DINP shows animals are more likely to develop tumours.
Phthalates are also endocrine disruptors which mimic hormones and can change normal hormone activity in our bodies. This is potentially cancer causing.
There are ways you can try to avoid phthalates in your day to day life.
1. Stop using plastic storage containers in your kitchen. Switch to glass storage containers.
2. Do not put plastic anything in the microwave. That is a sure way to ingest phthalates through the heating of food in plastic containers or with plastic wrap over top of the food. Instead use glass containers with glass lids such as Corning or Pyrex cookware.
3. Use glass or stainless steel vessels for beverages such as coffee to go, water, baby milk etc.
4. Be very mindful of the kinds of cosmetics you slather on your body or on your baby. You can check with the “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics” website to see if your favorite brands contain phthalates. I get all of my personal care products from Living Libations…a link to this great company is at the bottom of this page. There are NO phthalates or chemicals of any kind in the products from Living Libations. They are pure, pure, pure.
5. Check the bottom of plastic bottles and choose those labelled #1, #2, #4, #5 which are GRAS, or generally recognized as safe. Avoid plastics labelled #3, #7, as they leach phthalates and avoid #6 plastics as they leach styrene.
6. Don’t buy canned foods unless the label indicates that the lining of the can is BPA free. Stick to fresh and frozen fruits and veggies instead of canned.
7. There are toys that are phthalate free for babies. Check the labels before giving your baby any toys they may chew on.
8. When you buy cheese wrapped in plastic try to scape off a thin layer from the outer edges of the food to eliminate as much of the phthalates as possible.
9. Choose non-vinyl raincoats, patio furniture, building materials etc. whenever possible.
10. Avoid air fresheners. Almost all air fresheners contain phthalates. A better choice is to use essential oils in a spray bottle mixed with water to freshen up your space.
11. Wet mop your floors at home often to eliminate the chemical off gassing.
It sounds like a lot to do to avoid phthalates but make these changes a little bit at a time and before you know it you will have eliminated a good majority of phthalates from your environment. It’s just the right thing to do for your health and that of your family.