Phthalates. What exactly are they?
Phthalates (sometimes called plasticizers) are chemicals that have been used since the 1950s to soften plastic that would otherwise be prone to cracking when bent. Because phthalates are not chemically bound to the plastics they are added to, they can be released into food or liquids or air.
Phthalates are suspected endocrine disruptors. They have been banned in certain products in the European Union since 2005 (i.e. toys) but are still allowed in the United States. These toxic chemicals are everywhere: in food packaging, fragrance, cosmetics, household cleaners, and personal-care products.
They have proven to be extremely harmful and toxic for expectant mothers, jeopardizing not only their health, but also the health of their unborn babies.
In 2003, CDC researchers found measurable levels of many phthalate metabolites (breakdown products that pass out quickly in urine) in the general population. By studying an individual’s urine samples, scientists are able to estimate the amount of phthalates that have entered his/her body.
The CDC found that women usually have higher levels of these urinary metabolites than men due to phthalates that are used in soaps, body washes, shampoos, and cosmetics.
Pretty scary stuff right?
Although it is unknown exactly how low-level phthalate exposure affects human health, phthalates have been linked to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, lower IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive systems, improper organ development, and male fertility issues.
Children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable groups for phthalates. These chemicals can potentially impact birth outcomes such as gestational age and birth weight, fertility, and anatomical abnormalities related to the male genitalia.
Inhaled, ingested, and absorbed through what we put in and on our bodies, phthalates are tough to phase out.
Luckily, there are steps that pregnant women can take to avoid consuming more of these toxics than necessary.
- Avoid microwaving food in plastic containers.
- Stay clear of plastic bottles and containers made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
- Always store food in glass, stainless steel, or ceramic containers.
- Synthetic fragrances can often contain hundreds of ingredients. Look at the contents of your fragrances, and go for naturally derived scents or fragrance-free label.
- Minimize the use of personal care products (shampoos, makeup, lotions) that contain phthalates.
- Eat organic. Phthalates are used in pesticides.
- Buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid canned and processed foods.
- Minimize handling of receipts, which contain chemicals. And and make sure you wash your hands after handling them!
- Take shoes off at the front door to avoid tracking in dust that may contain these chemicals.
- Keep carpets and window sills clean – these are popular hang out spots for dust that contains phthalates!
- Look for products from companies and manufacturers who can verify the products are phthalate-free.
It seems that our everyday lives are overrun with phthalates.
We couldn’t agree more Taylor, but these simple steps can help minimize exposure. But in the meantime, take action with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and get #RealReform