Many people have heard that phthalates are harmful, but what are they exactly? Phthalates are a group of chemicals that make products like plastic more pliable and softer. They help lubricate, penetrate and soften, and help fragrances last longer, but at what cost to our health?

Phthalates are known as endocrine disruptors because they mimic the body’s hormones and can interfere with natural hormone activity. This can cause abnormalities in the body and may lead to fertility problems and cancer.

Think about your morning ritual for a moment. You get up, have a shower, shave, put on makeup if you're a woman, along with hand cream, body cream, hair gel, nail polish, perfume — the list goes on. Then you go downstairs, put in a load of wash using fragranced soap, and perhaps you even have an air freshener in your home. Maybe you microwave your leftover breakfast in a plastic container, get into your new car that's been sitting in the sun, and breathe in that new car smell as you drive to work. 

If you think nothing is wrong with this picture, think again.

Phthalates are in virtually everything you come in contact with during this routine, plus many more common items: shampoo, cream rinse, soap, body wash, makeup, hand cream, shaving cream, deodorants, perfumes, plastic containers, household cleaners, flooring, shower curtains, toys, electronics, insecticides, plastic wrap, furniture, plastic baby bottles, baby powder, toys, IV equipment, catheters and new cars, just to name a few. The average woman will have put 123 chemicals onto her body before she leaves her home.

Children are especially vulnerable to phthalates, as they tend to play with toys, then put their fingers in their mouths. Worse, manufactures aren't required to list phthalates on labels and may simply list them as fragrances.

So how do you avoid phthalates? Here are a few tips that may help limit your exposure to these harmful chemicals:
  • Use glass and stainless steel for storage and drinking. Don’t microwave food in plastic containers or put plastic containers in the dishwasher, as the heat allows the chemicals to leach out.
  • Buy natural shampoos and soaps and avoid putting chemicals in your skin.
  • Avoid canned goods, as BPA is a type of phthalate used to line cans. Stick to fresh vegetables and foods in glass jars. Avoid canned baby formula.
  • Don’t buy vinyl or PVC products, pacifiers and toys that contain phthalates. Try a cloth shower curtain, look for natural paints when painting, and avoid air fresheners.
  • If you have a new car, leave the windows open and air it out.
  • Start to demand that your products be manufactured without phthalates.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


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