Some years back, BPA (a type of plastic), earned a bad name as a health disruptor. The market responded by slapping a ‘BPA free’ label wherever it could, and often just replaced BPA (bisphenol A) for BPS (bisphenol S), which has the same estrogen-like compounds.
While it was great that consumer awareness about plastics began at this time, and it also was great that many consumers started using glass and steel containers, I would not say that we, as a culture, got a deep and clear understanding of synthetic ingredients following the BPA uproar.
Let's Learn About Phthalates
So let’s continue our education and add another ‘bad plastic’ to the list: phthalates. Phthalates is a hard word to pronounce ( say “thal - lates” ) and even harder to spell, but I want you to get to know this group of chemicals, as they are probably more ubiquitous than BPA, and a lack of awareness is leaving you literally soaking in a sea of phthalates.
Phthalates keep plastic soft- like in those disposable, pre-filled water bottles, plastic hoses, plastic wrap, even IV bags in hospitals. But that’s not all phthalates do. They also help keep fragrance lingering for longer, so they are a part of about every ‘fragrance’ mix you see on a label.
Large companies are now pumping fragrance around their buildings as a signature scent. Hotels are doing it, and even Goodwill Industries has gotten into it. But I digress...
The Problem with Phthalates
The problem with phthalates is that they are obesogens and endocrine disruptors. This means that they contribute to a toxic load that can make you fat, tired and grumpy. They can also contribute to fertility issues and man boobs.
The tricky thing about environmental toxins is that we are all exposed to multiple toxins from multiple sources, so it becomes difficult to isolate any one source as the cause of disease.
However, there is a growing body of study linking phthalates and other chemicals to health disorders, especially in unborn and small children:
Associations of prenatal environmental phenol and phthalate biomarkers with respiratory and allergic diseases among children aged 6 and 7 years.
Early Prenatal Phthalate Exposure, Sex Steroid Hormones, and Birth Outcomes.
Impact of diisobutyl phthalate and other PPAR agonists on steroidogenesis and plasma insulin and leptin levels in fetal rats.
Association between use of phthalate-containing medication and semen quality among men in couples referred for assisted reproduction
Are We Being Protected?
According to the FDA, the higher levels of phthalate metabolites now found in urinary testing cannot be tied to symptom development. (Example of testing of phthalate levels)
“While the CDC report noted elevated levels of phthalates excreted by women of child-bearing age, neither this report nor the other data reviewed by FDA established an association between the use of phthalates in cosmetic products and a health risk. Based on this information, FDA determined that there wasn’t a sound, scientific basis to support taking regulatory action against cosmetics containing phthalates.” (source)
It appears this information has not been reviewed since 2002. However, I did find an article that stated that, in 2016, the FDA was going to reconsider the use of phthalates in food packaging and equipment (source), but I have not seen any further reference to their response to this public petition.
What Can You Do?
As I mentioned earlier, we all have multiple exposures to chemicals in our modern world. But we can reduce our exposure significantly through our own choices! Most of those choices are made in what we buy to eat and use around the home. If you want to avoid phthalates, here are some easy tips:
- Avoid buying those pre-filled soft water bottles. Instead, invest in a home water filter and keep glass bottles of filtered water ready to go when headed out of the house.
- Eat organic as much as possible. Phthalates are part of some pesticides.
- Avoid processed foods wrapped in plastic like pre-made burgers. Also, store your food in glass- not plastic.
- If you don't need your receipt, ask the sales clerk to throw it out for you.
- Don’t get your nails done. Nail salons are so full of chemicals! Just buff, trim and oil your nails to keep them healthy.
- Make your own air freshener. This is super easy and avoids phthalates. I have a video on it here.
- If you visit a place with a troubling amount of fragrance, comment! I just wrote my local Goodwill Industries and cited some sources!
- Avoid the word ‘fragrance’ like the plague. Instead, buy unscented or items scented with essential oils. Be careful, because everything from kitty litter to trash bags is now being scented.
- Learn more. This is a huge topic but little by little you become an expert!
This week and next I have two live webinars available to learn with me about non-toxic products:
1. Choosing the Best Products for Your Skin Type