Phthalates are plasticisers that are added to plastics to make them transparent, flexible and durable whilst giving longevity. The group of chemicals known as phthalates includes many different chemical esters and globally we produce 8.4 million tonnes per year.
Phthalates are found in food packaging, personal care products, cosmetics, household cleaners and often in food itself, due to the manufacturing processes that might include plastic tubing or similar exposure of food to plastics during the manufacturing process. A good example of this is milk that has been transported through plastic tubing after the cow has been milked as well as storage of butter, cream cheese, pates etc sold in plastic containers, as the fat in these foods leaches phthalates from the plastic into the food you unknowingly eat.
Phthalates are not just taken into the body via food and food packaging, but are also absorbed through the skin when using cosmetics, personal care products, such as shampoos, shower gels and soaps, but are also breathed in through house dust. Young children are especially vulnerable to the latter due to instinct to put things in their mouth, as well as when crawling around on the floor. If the floor is linoleum or a highly polished floor, it is likely that they are ingesting phthalates.
Back in 2008 the Consumer Products Safety Bill was passed in the USA banning Phthalates in children’s toys and products. At the same time this Bill also included the directive to take a closer look at phthalate chemicals and the impact on human health. In 1999 the EU banned the use of phthalates in children’s toys, for exactly the reason mentioned above.
Why are phthalates harmful? More research is indicating links between phthalates and several health conditions including Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), various autism spectrum disorders, obesity, breast cancer, male fertility issues, Type 2 diabetes, and asthma. The biggest concern is that phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals and the effects of this can be multiple.
Tips for lessoning the phthalate load on the body and in the home:
- Remove any food from the plastic containers and put it into a glass container.
- Avoid storing food in any type of plastic container.
- Avoid buying foods that come in soft, squeezable plastics such as sauces, honey and mayonnaise.
- Use natural household products and avoid products with “fragrance” listed as one of the ingredients, as this is likely a phthalate. Look for phthalate free or DEP (Diethyl phthalate) free packaging.
- Buy wooden toys rather than plastic toys
- Plastic food containers should have either the code numbers 1,2 or 5 in the “recyclable symbol” as these are phthalate free. The number 3 indicates that is has been manufactured using phthalates.
- Do a liver cleanse at least once a year, as this will lessen the toxic load on the liver and help it function more effectively in detoxifying your blood, producing bile needed to digest fat; breaking down hormones; and storing essential vitamins, minerals and iron.