Monday, August 26, 2013

What you should know about Phthalates

Phthalates - pronounced "thal-ates" are a class of hormone disrupting chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists as a "probable carcinogen." They have been linked to breast cancer, lower sperm counts in males, early puberty, infertility and animal studies show incidents of developmental abnormalities since they cross the placental barrier. The Red Cross and Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted a study in 2004 that detected more than 287 synthetic chemicals (phthalates included) in the cord blood of newborns - more than 180 of the are carcinogenic, 217 toxic to the brain and nervous system and 208 can cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal studies.

Phthalates are found in a variety of products that we use every day. The most common use is as a "plasticizer" that makes plastic flexible and not brittle - such as vinyl and PVC. Because phthalates are not chemically bound to the plastics they're added to they're continuously released into the air, food or liquid and leach out - also known as "off- gassing." You know how when plastic gets old it will crack and get hard? Yep, off-gassing. Any plastic with the #3 recycling code, which is PVC or vinyl type, definitely have phthalates. Hard plastics might be phthalate free, but BPA (next post) could be a concern.

I never understood how exposure to plastic was dangerous since I'm not eating it for lunch.  Here's what I learned: because of off-gassing and leaching its ingested if a baby chews or sucks on an object or if a child handles it and then puts their hands in their mouth.  Anything cooked or stored in unsafe plastics become contaminated when the chemicals leach into food or liquid.  They are also absorbed by the skin and go directly into your bloodstream. In his book Toxic Beauty, Samuel Epstein, MD states it's actually safer to consume these products than to put them on your skin. Toxins you eat at least have a liver to filter and partially protect you, but what you put on your largest organ is quickly absorbed into your body - think of how a nicotine patch works. The good news is that in 2012 Congress banned phthalates more than .1% from any toys or children's care items designed to facilitate sleep or feed children younger than three. Look out for hand me down older plastics made before this regulation.

This crushed me - fragrances are loaded with phthalates..... They are used to help lubricate, help lotions penetrate and soften the skin, and help fragrances last longer. Deodorants, nail polish (helps prevent chipping), hairspray (prevents stiffness), perfumes, creams are all offenders. Manufacturers are legally allowed to hide hundreds of chemicals in the ingredient "fragrance" or "parfum" and do not have to list them on the ingredients label. If a product contains the ingredient "fragrance" all bets are off on its safety because there is no way to determine its toxicity. Even "fragrance free" products use the ingredient "fragrance." SO WRONG. I have worn my "signature scent" Jo Malone Orange Blossom perfume for over a decade and feel so feminine and pretty when I put it on - makes me happy. Eliminating synthetic fragrances was a tough change for me, but I've found solutions that work for me - here is what I've done to avoid phthalates:

  • Threw out all air fresheners (Febreze, plug ins I bought at Bath and Body Works, scented candles, Pottery Barn potpourri sticks). I found a great natural citrus air freshener at Trader Joe's made from essential oils that costs $4 and we love.
  • Replaced my beloved Tide with Seventh Generation soap for our laundry and Charlie's Soap (made in North Carolina!) for Olivia's cloth diapers.  I no longer use dryer sheets which are loaded with chemicals and am happy with these Gaiam static eliminator sheets that I bought on Amazon. Another option is wool dryer balls, which I've seen them at TJ Maxx or Marshalls. Most of us wear clothes all day long and all those chemicals are being absorbed directly into your bloodstream - changing up your laundry habits can make a huge difference. Tide now smells very over powering and fake to me and my laundry is still clean and fresh. 
  • No more perfume every day although I do still wear my Jo Malone to church on Sunday (my 20%!)
  • I bought a pure soy naturally scented candle by Kobo - "Kyoto Quince" 
  • Replaced my shower curtain with a PVC free one that I bought from Marshalls. Its still plastic, but I'm not spending $90 on a hemp one.... PVC can also be found in rain coats, mattress covers, lawn furniture, for a more detailed list click here: Green Peace
  • Despite the new law limiting phthalates in children's items I still I try hard to minimize Olivia's exposure to plastic toys, which is getting really hard as she's getting older. I trust Melissa and Doug, Plan Toys, Haba, Green Sprouts (awesome teething rings) and anything from Europe that has safer standards for their toys. I am a stay at home mom on a budget, and yes these toys are more expensive - however, I have found Melissa and Doug at TJ Maxx and check out the lot of Plan Toys I found at a church garage sale for $10! 
    Since IKEA is a Swedish brand they follow EU regulations - I've found some great colorful wooden toys there for cheap. Etsy is an awesome source for handmade, non-toxic options. Ed made Olivia this wooden block with lots of handles and knobs that he bought at the hardware store and she LOVED it.
    My 80/20 rule definitely applies here - of course Olivia will be exposed to plastics all day long (car seat, high chair, whole entire car) but I control what I can. It was ESPECIALLY important to me to protect her from hormone disruptors during her first few months of life during peak organ development - read my previous post about endocrine disrupters....
  • Changed out my skin care products to lines that I know use natural scents (see also previous post about parabens) and am a fan of Burt's Bees and Ava Anderson Non-Toxic. Although Burt's has fragrance listed it is all natural and phthalate free. What really frustrates me is when I buy something at a premium thinking its a healthy choice only to learn its still full of toxins. This happened at Origins when I bought very expensive anti aging skin care products feeling confident I was making a safe and "good for me" purchase. Later find out that I was fooled again by clever marketing. Don't be tricked by earthy and organic looking packaging - READ THE INGREDIENTS!!!
  • Guys, quit reading this bullet... I've never understood why tampons are fragranced - I certainly don't want phthalates all up in there and buy unscented cotton tampons only. For another even safer alternative check out Lunette, sounds crazy but its been a positive switch.
  • I'm experimenting with make-up and hoping to find a replacement brand as I run out of product. I'd love to hear any suggestions!  
For additional information on phthalates check out the following studies:


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  2. Hi there,

    Wonderful post. If you love the Jo Malone Orange Blossom, then just use Neroli essential oil diluted in jojoba and use a beautiful organic fleur d'orange mist all natural from brands like sanoflore or florame. It will make you even happier. I love Jo Malones universe too, but I don't believe it's worth it I have come to love the real thing more.

  3. You'll enjoy the brand Living Nature for creams and mineral makeup - they are rigorously pure and all natural. Made in New Zealand.

  4. Lavera and Dr Hauschka both have an amazing checks free makeup range ..both are German companies

  5. Lavera and Dr Hauschka both have an amazing checks free makeup range ..both are German companies

  6. Lavera and Dr Hauschka both have an amazing checks free makeup range ..both are German companies

  7. Just got my payment for $500.

    Sometimes people don't believe me when I tell them about how much you can get filling out paid surveys online...

    So I show them a video of myself getting paid $500 for filling paid surveys.

  8. Jane Iredale for cosmetics, which is London based. Sircuit Skin Cosmeceuticals for skin care which is Los Angeles based but goes by EU standards, is 100% chirally corrected, USDA and NOP certified, Made Better certified, cruelty free, made fresh to order and concentrate. They’re the only skin care line in the world, on top of being pro strength, that can legally claim that their skin care line truly covers all those bullet points. The only one. You shouldn’t use anything else on your skin. Sircuit Skin and Jane Iredale are of equal caliber, with the exception of the Jane Iredale skin care line. It just doesn’t perform the way Sircuit does.

    1. Hi Nikkea! Great article- so clearly stated...thank you. Have you heard of or looked into Arbonne? Another wellness company that also goes by EU standards, vegan, cruelty free, non GMO, free from harmful chemicals.