What are phthalates?
To prevent being labeled a chatty Cathy, we like to give you information on a NEED-TO-KNOW basis – and in this case, you NEED to know what Phthalates are because they are so commonly used that they are referred to as an “everywhere” chemical. This over-used chemical is what makes plastic flexible, holds color in cosmetics and helps bind fragrance oils together. THIS is where the documentation of phthalates pulls a Run DMC and gets tricky.
Just because your soap smells like your favorite scent of green apple crisp on a fall day at sunset (seriously though, scents give no room for the imagination anymore.. they’re that descriptive) it’s about as unnatural as it smells. Manufacturers can mask the listing of phthalates in delicious smelling products under the broad umbrella (ella, ella eh, eh) of “fragrance”. It’s time for you to know the consequences of a seemingly simple listing in which phthalates is more than likely present.
Why are phthalates harmful?
Phthalates post more of a risk than just not knowing how to properly pronounce such a complicated word (I’m not alone here, right?)
- They’ve been found to interfere with normal brain function since they are endocrine disruptors.
- Phthalates also send signals through your body that could result in Autism, Breast Cancer, Testicular Cancer and reduced sperm counts and testosterone levels in males.
- Studies have shown phthalates to cause adverse effects passed down from mother to fetus when pregnant women are exposed to them. This ranges from premature breast development and abnormal sexual development in girls to less masculine behavior and reduced sperm count in boys.
Where are phthalates found?
Where are phthalates? Phthalates are found in almost anything "fragranced". From air fresheners to shampoo to soap! Here are a few common products:
- hair dye
- hair spray
- nail polish
- insect repellant
- plastic toys
- shower curtains
- tap water
- most anything with "fragrance" in the ingredients
Phthalates might be impossible to avoid altogether, but that's why it's so important to know where they are so that you can avoid them as much as possible.
- Avoid "fragrance". Phthalates are rarely ever listed on an ingredient label. When it comes to soaps, cosmetics and smelly things, "fragrance" almost always means phthalates. Look instead for products that say "essential oils only" or "no synthetic fragrance".
- Avoid plastic whenever possible and never heat food in a plastic container. Even phthalate free containers contain harmful chemicals that can be absorbed by your food when exposed to heat.
- Eat organic meat, dairy and produce. Phthalates are present in pesticides and sewage sludge which are both used in conventional agriculture. Neither are allowed in certified organic products.
- Say goodbye to hand-me-down plastic toys. Before 2009 phthalates were not regulated in plastic children's toys so toss any items you own if you think they may have been purchased before then. Now they are and most toys will not contain them. Look for BPA free also.
- Install a water filter. A nano filter is probably the better option as some filters don't get out everything. But even a standard granular activated carbon water filter should reduce the amount of phthalates absorbed by your water from the plastic water pipes.
- Buy soap, cosmetic and skincare products from companies that are committed to product integrity. Here are a few recommendations:
- soap + skincare: http://www.bambuearth.com
- deodorant: http://www.schmidtsdeodorant.com/
- nail polish: http://www.scotchnaturals.com/
- make your own hairspray: http://wellnessmama.com/11624/natural-hairspray-recipe/
- 9 all-natural perfumes: http://bit.ly/1pSe6yj
Phthalates are truly all around, but knowing what they are and how they are listed is the first step in avoiding them. Your skin is like a sponge that absorbs most of what is put on it. Ensure that what you are putting on your skin is promoting health for your precious loved ones and yourself – not stripping you of it – by being responsible about your soap and skincare.