Talking Toxins : PHTHALATE

Written by
on July 10, 2017

Hello and welcome to Talking Toxins with Rachel…

Toxin of the week: PHTHALATE (TH-ah-LATE)

So what are they?
In simple terms they are a softener for plastics to make them more flexible, “plasticizers.” The common phthalates used in cosmetics are: dibutylphthalate (DBP), used in nail polish to reduce cracking so they are less brittle; dimethylphthalate (DMP), used in hair sprays to help the spray form a flexible holding film on the hair; and diethylphthalate (DEP), used for fragrances as a solvent and fixative. According to FDA’s latest survey of cosmetics, conducted in 2010, DEP is the only phthalate still commonly used in cosmetics. DBP and DMP are rarely used.

What do I find them in?
Nail polish, hair spray, aftershave lotion, soap, shampoo, deodorant, perfume and ingredients listed as “fragrance,” toys, PVC, vinyl flooring/wall coverings, detergents, lubricating oils, food packaging, pharmaceuticals (coatings on pills), and blood bags and tubing – plastic that is flexible and soft. Common names: dibutylphthalate, dimethylphthalate, diethylphthalate, butyl ester or plasticizer.

Why should I be concerned?
Phthalates have been measured in human urine. The FDA reports that in an article published by “The American Academy of Pediatrics” infants exposed to infant care products, specifically baby shampoos, baby lotions and baby powder, showed increased levels of phthalate metabolites in their urine (see “Baby Care Products: Possible Sources of Infant Phthalate Exposure,” S. Sathyanarayana, Pediatrics, 2008, vol. 121, pp. 260-268). Two studies suggest phthalate exposure during pregnancy may lead to developmental issues in male infants, such as small genital size and low hormone levels. Colon Health Magazine reports, “Studies on mice have shown that phthalate exposures resulted in developmental and reproductive problems” and “studies with humans have proven inconclusive but some studies have suggested that phthalates can induce proliferation in breast cancer cells and show they are endocrine disruptors.” While there is no evidence that they cause these issues in humans, there are issues with studies done on mice and we live in a very plastic world along with many other chemicals in these plastic products!

So what can I do?
Be more aware of the plastic products that you are using. Try to limit your use, especially pre-packaged and highly processed foods, vinyl products, and be aware of the products we are using while pregnant and on our babies and children. Check what items our babies and children are putting in their mouths with toys or other plastic items. PVC is vinyl – if you see the number 3 on the bottle it contains phthalate. Educate yourself, read labels and look at the packaging material of plastics you are using. Refer to the website with “the study with toys” and check out the percentages of phthalates found in products they tested.” We are the gatekeeper to our home!

According to the FDA website, at this time the FDA does not have evidence that phthalates as used in cosmetics pose a safety risk. If they determine that a health hazard exists, they will advise the industry and public and will take action within the scope of their authority under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in protecting the health and welfare of consumers. At this time the FDA says there is not enough evidence to conclude that phthalates pose a health risk.



Rachel Kuehn
Wife, Mother, Nurse and Oil Lover!

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