Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that are used to make plastics more flexible and softer (think safe baby toys), and more durable. You’ll never see phthalates on a label but they are also used as a carrier chemical in suspending fragrances evenly throughout products and in the making of PVC, polyvinyl chloride.
Phthalates disrupt the estrogen and androgen systems, increases infertility in both males and females, and cause early onset of puberty (which is linked to an increased risk of Breast Cancer later in life). It has been shown to accelerate cancer cell growth and inhibit the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs.
Pregnant women, male fetuses, infants, and young children are most susceptible to long term damages from phthalate exposure. There is a documentary explaining the impact on male fetuses called “The Disappearing Male” that you can stream for free, if you’d like more information.
Phthalates have also been linked to asthma, attention deficit disorder, obesity, type 2 diabetes, low IQ, neuro-development issues and behavioral issues. It's prolific in our lives and the harmful effect it has on our bodies.
This is an important chemical to eliminate from your life and home, to the best of your ability.
Fragrances are really freaking dangerous chemicals. I know you may not “feel” any different when you use products that have a fragrance but rest assured, your endocrine system, lungs and liver feel the effects of it.
There are approximately 4,000 chemicals used to create fragrances and there are no tests or studies done to see the effects on humans (which is a crime, in my opinion). Therefore we must go by the carrier chemical which is the phthalate, and based on the harm it causes, that alone is enough to stop using products with fragrances.
People are addicted to fragrances and the chemical manufacturers like it that way! You can now find fragrances in every personal care product, in cosmetics, soaps, cleaners, detergents, laundry products, clothing, and the worst offender...air fresheners.
There are several documentaries you can watch for more information: "Stink!" and "Toxic Beauty" are 2 good ones to check out.
If you are concerned about your health at all, breaking free from fragrances is an excellent place to start!
As you run out of products instead of automatically buying the same thing, seek out a less toxic version instead. One that doesn’t have any fragrance or perfums added.
After a few months of not using fragrances, you'll no longer be able to tolerate the cleaning aisle at the grocery store, and going to a friend's home with candles, air fresheners and fragrances galore in their homes, may give you a headache or you may have a difficult time breathing. Your body is no longer accustomed to living polluted and the fragrances will bother you. These are all signs that you’re healing. You’re lowering your chemical load and your body will thank you for it.
When my husband and I go hiking I can smell the laundry detergent and softener on others that we pass on the trails, it's equal to second hand smoke and it makes me nauseous and can sometimes cause headaches for the rest of the day.
WAYS TO AVOID EXPOSURE:
- Always choose fragrance free products, this can sometimes be difficult as many stores simply do not offer them. Remember, if it's listed as "unscented" that is sometimes treated as a fragrance, always look at the ingredient list! Looking online is a better place to find safer products. I use the Think Dirty App and the Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Living App, they rate products based on their ingredients and will give you a complete list the ingredients when there is no listing on the packaging. For more information you can check my blog post on choosing healthy cleaners.
- Many home decor items are made from vinyl and plastics containing phthalates. Just say no to these items, instead choose wood, metal, ceramic or other natural items.
- Many window treatments, blinds, shutters, vinyl floor and shower curtains are made from PVC or plastic. Make sure you’re choosing more natural non-PVC options. Once you get accustomed to not buying plastic you will become very aware that everything is made of plastic.
- Ditch the plastic food containers, utensils, bowls and food prep items. Instead switch to glass, ceramic, stainless steel, bamboo or wood. I purchased a set of glass storage bowls 18 years ago and am still using them today, the initial cost may be a little higher but will save you tons of money in the long run.
- The #3 plastic contains phthalates so steer clear of purchases with this type of plastic.
- Never heat food in plastic and avoid hot foods served in plastic containers. The phthalates will leach into and contaminate your food mostly when heated.
- Purchase glass or stainless steel water bottles and use instead of purchasing drinks in plastic.
- Please, throw your plug in air fresheners and candles away! Add an air purifier, diffuse real essential oils, open your windows, and add houseplants to naturally clean the air in your home. Plants are amazing at purifying the air. The guidance from NASA is, 1 houseplant for every 100 square feet. You can start out with one or two and work up from there. Plants are really amazing in your home and can add a new level of joy.
- Basically avoid plastic, pvc and anything with fragrances.
If you know anyone who is trying to become pregnant, is pregnant, has small children or has/had Breast Cancer, show them some extra love by sharing this information. It’s that important.
Share your safe swaps with us in the comments. I would love to hear about them!