Science

What Are Phthalates?

And how do I even say that word… basically ignore the "ph-"

What is it?

Phthalates are similar to BPA in that they are an additive to plastic. Phthalates are technically a group of chemicals, and they are added to plastics to make them more flexible and durable.


What can it do to me?

Phthalates are one of the better known endocrine disrupting chemicals. That means, they upset how hormones are made and distributed throughout our bodies. Hormones are an important part of how our bodies do pretty much everything, from regulating temperature, to controlling fertility, to managing metabolism.

Where is this stuff?

Often phthalates are found in plastics that are clear and flexible. Think things like shower curtains and vinyl flooring. They also are added to personal care items like lotions and soaps to help the fragrance last longer. That basically means tiny amounts of plasticizer (phthalates) are added to the products that smell good, so the fragrance sticks to your skin better and for longer.

How can I stay safe?

A good way to stay safe from phthalates is to avoid plastic when you can, especially things that come into contact with what you drink and eat. Think about the packaging the food comes in, what items you eat the off of and with, and how you store your food. Because plastic is more likely to leak chemicals into food when it is heated up, another easy way to avoid phthalates is to heat up leftovers on a plate or in glass food storage, instead of in plastic food storage containers. And, if you are using plastic food storage containers, try to avoid containers with the recycle label numbers 3 and 7. Those are the worst offenders of leaking chemicals into food as they sit. Recycle numbers 2 and 5 are generally pretty safe, especially if they are being used in cold areas like the fridge.

Besides that, look for lotions, soaps, and other personal care products that say they are phthalate free. This label is popping up on products more often now as people start to learn about the health effects phthalates can have. Another tip is to avoid products with fragrance. If you see "fragrance" on the label as an ingredient, that increase the chances that phthalates are also present. One big one is skip the air fresheners. We have a bunch of tips for making your home smell nice without air fresheners.

In addition to that, if you can avoid other vinyl products like shower curtains, rain gear, and inflatable toys, that will make a pretty big difference too. When it comes to toys, try to go with quality over quantity, we wrote a whole article of safer alternatives for toys with some suggestions of our kids favorite brands. For other products, opt for ones that are PVC free. You can find PVC-free versions of many products, like carpet and rug padding, shower curtains, wall decals, inflatable air mattresses, and rubber duckies.

It's more difficult when it come to things like vinyl flooring. If you are buying new, avoiding vinyl and looking for PVC-free options is a great start. If you aren't getting new floors anytime soon, or are renting your apartment, dusting with a wet microfiber cloth and vacuuming with a HEPA filter regularly are the best suggestions. This helps remove any dust that might be accumulating and keeps it from getting into your body. Along the same lines, be sure to wash your hands regularly, especially before you eat.

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