U.S Air Force photo illustration by Air Force Staff Sgt. William Banton

Ortho-phthalates, commonly referred to as phthalates (pronounced THAL-eights), are a group of chemicals that are used to make plastics, primarily polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl), flexible. The chemicals also serve other purposes, including as solvents in fragrances for personal care and cleaning products.

These chemicals are used in many different consumer products and they migrate out easily. That’s why they’re found in food—after migrating from food processing equipment and packaging. This is concerning because exposure to phthalates is linked to a range of serious health issues. Though phthalates can affect everyone, exposures may do the greatest harm in pregnant women. Their children may be born with behavioral issues and lower IQ. Boys whose mothers are exposed to phthalates could be born with reproductive tract defects. Children are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of phthalates because they eat more than adults do, relative to body weight, and are still growing and developing.

Most U.S. agencies and state governments aren’t doing what they can to protect us from exposure to phthalates. Since food is the largest source of exposure and dairy has been found to have some of the highest levels, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and other groups are calling on grocery and restaurant chains to eliminate phthalates in food and food packaging. We are also part of a coalition of groups calling on Kraft Foods to “klean” up its act and eliminate ANY and ALL sources of phthalates in its foods. Sign the petition here!