Toxic Chemical Load #2: Phthalates
Sometimes I wish I had not failed chemistry. I was great at math, I liked science, but for some reason, my seventeen-year-old brain did not want to comprehend chemistry. The more I discover how products are made with health compromising chemicals, I wonder if chemistry would help me make sense of it all?
I express gratitude every day for the privileges of living in a world with electricity, modern plumbing, HVAC and vehicles. I understand how sanitation and modern appliances create a hygienic and convenient lifestyle. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to these modern perks. So many products and services are created with toxic materials or are filled with them.
As a millennial, I grew up in a world of plastic, fast-food, tv and pop-tarts. My parents were raised with less and higher quality (usually American made) goods. There was a simplicity and minimalism that required patience. If you wanted something, you had to save for it. Once you could afford it you would go to a physical store and buy it. Our generation is spoiled with LOTS of things that can be acquired on a low budget or with credit cards. We are completely disconnected from the supply chain and the true cost of things.
Our blind consumption of stuff and busy lifestyle habits leave us susceptible to encounter a wide range of toxins. Our air, water, food and habitats are filled with toxic chemicals. We really cannot avoid all of them. We do have some control though. We can choose products with less toxins and we can slow our lives down to detox. We must become educated consumers if we hope to steward healthy lifestyles for our families.
Today, we are highlighting another chemical and showing how to make simple changes to prevent toxic overload in your life.
What: Phthalates (ortho-phthalates) – commonly used in plastics (to make it soft) and used as “fragrance” and “parfum” in personal care products and home goods like air fresheners. Also found in vinyl flooring and other home finishes.
“One of their common uses is to soften vinyl plastic. Things like shower curtains, boots, and IV tubing are made from that same hard white plastic that a plumber would use, but when you add about 30% by weight to it of a specific phthalate, you get soft pliable vinyl plastic. Phthalates are also used in many personal care products such as colognes, perfumes, soaps, and shampoos, in the coatings of some medications, and in vinyl tubing used for food processing. I would estimate that phthalates are used in many hundreds if not thousands of different products.
One primary way that people can be exposed to phthalates is through diet. For example, it’s been shown that these chemicals can leach into food from vinyl plastic equipment and materials, food preparation gloves, and food packaging materials. Phthalates can also migrate into indoor air and household dust from products like vinyl flooring and wall coverings.” (1)
Health Concerns: Known to disrupt hormones, especially testosterone in males and carcinogenic.
“PVC can contain as much as 57% chlorine. Carbon—derived from petroleum products—is also often used in its manufacture. Due to the toxins that can potentially be released during manufacture, when exposed to fire, or as it decomposes in landfills, PVC has been dubbed by some medical researchers and environmentalists as the “poison plastic.”
PVC-related health concerns are as yet to be statistically proven, however, these toxins have been linked to conditions that include but are not limited to cancer, fetal developmental setbacks, endocrine disruption, asthma, and diminished lung function. While manufacturers point to PVC’s high salt content as being natural and relatively harmless, science suggests that sodium—along with the release of dioxin and phthalate—are in fact potential contributing factors to the environmental and health hazards PVC pose.” (2)
Where: In ALL types of plastic, hygiene products, home goods and home finishes.
“How can I reduce my exposure to these phthalates?
• Avoid plastics known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or vinyl (with recycle code 3).
• Choose personal care products that are identified as “phthalate-free” or “fragrance-free.”
• Prior to undergoing medical procedures (especially recurring ones, like dialysis) plan ahead by requesting medical devices or equipment that do not contain DEHP. This is especially important for protecting boys from the reproductive effects of DEHP (during pregnancy, in infancy, and around the time of puberty).
• Minimize exposure to dust, which can contain some of the phthalates listed above.
o Wash your hands and your child’s hands frequently, especially before preparing food, and before eating.
o Clean floors regularly, using a wet mop or a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, if possible.
o Wipe up dust regularly, using a damp cloth.
• Eat more fresh food, and less processed and packaged food.” (8)
Suggested Changes to Make:
Clean your house more often (with natural products of course!) because dust contains phthalates.
DO NOT drink water out of plastic and avoid pre-packaged food. Use a glass or (lead free) stainless steel water bottle.
Consume purified water.
Upgrade food storage containers and serve ware to glass, ceramic, wood and (lead free) stainless steel.
READ LABELS. Replace ALL products with “fragrance” and “parfum”. This includes shampoo, soap, cologne, lotion, air fresheners, and cleaning products. There are plenty of items available without phthalates. You made need to find a health food store or search online.
AVOID all plastic numbers 3, 6 and 7 (found within the arrow triangle symbol that signals how to recycle it).
Sources to learn more:
It’s been a long journey for me to remove common toxic products from my life. I still have a far way to go. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed when your eyes get opened. If you feel this way, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “what is one change I can make in this season?”. We are on a journey to better health.
What changes have you made or are interested in making? Leave us a comment below!
Disclaimer: We do not claim to be experts on these subjects. We communicate what we understand to be well sourced facts. We acknowledge that information on these topics evolves over time and that we may not have uncovered the full story on these subjects. Please do your own research and follow your peace. We make suggestions out of good will and state that you follow them at your own risk. Our heart is to spark curiosity and empower you to make incremental changes that deeply improve your wellbeing. Thank you for going on this health journey with us.