Phthalates, commonly referred to as plasticizers, are chemicals used in many household products and have been present in the environment since the 1920s.
What are phthalates and where are they found?
Phthalates are used to make plastic more flexible and less prone to breakage. They may also be used as solvents for other substances, as well as in numerous fragrances. Because they have numerous practical applications, phthalates are produced in large amounts. In fact, since 2006, phthalate production has increased to more than 470 million pounds of phthalates each year, and phthalates are frequently found in polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is used to do things such as water pipes, garden pipes, medical tubes, packaging films, and food packaging. Plastic, and even kids’ toys. Phthalates also occur in adhesives, cleaners, automotive plastics, personal care products (soap, shampoo, nail polish, etc.), and cosmetics. In other words, phthalates are all around us and due to filtration, tampering, and disintegration, they can enter many drinking water supplies. Whether it is industrial production/waste pollution or spraying fruits and vegetables with pesticides, phthalates can be found in water in many ways.
Are phthalates harmful to your health?
Exposure to phthalates can occur through eating and drinking foods that have come in contact with products containing phthalates or by breathing in air containing phthalate vapor/dust with phthalate particles. Phthalates are considered endocrine-disrupting agents, which means that they bind to hormone receptors and interfere with the function of reproductive hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. High levels of phthalates have been linked to menstrual irregularities, poor ovulation, and an increased risk of endometriosis. Studies have also shown that higher levels of phthalates in men and women attempting to conceive are associated with longer gestational periods and a definitive diagnosis of infertility (unable to get pregnant for a year). Studies have demonstrated that exposure to phthalates has been associated with poor egg quality and poor semen quality.
Some phthalates, including DEHP, can cause cancer. Phthalates are readily absorbed into the human body and are quickly converted into their metabolites, then rapidly excreted into urine and feces. However, they may interact with one another and increase the impact of exposure. The health effects of phthalate exposure are not yet fully known and are currently being researched and investigated.
How can I protect myself against phthalates?
Here are a few things you can do to reduce your phthalate exposure:
● Make investments in a water filter. Granular activated carbon (CAG) filters or nanofiltration system filters remove/reduce DEHP, a phthalate that is used in water lines.
● Stay away from recycling codes 3 and 7. Plastic products with these codes (particularly those that contain food and beverages) often contain phthalates, which in turn can leach into your food.
● Eliminate plastic from your kitchen – phthalates can leak from plastic containers (such as water bottles and food containers) that are exposed to heat and detergent (dishwasher, microwave).
● Swap your beauty products with phthalates for safer products. (Fragrance-free is a good starting point since perfume is considered a trade secret and companies do not need to list the ingredients used for perfume in cosmetics).
● If you are renovating your home, choose natural materials such as wood or bamboo and get fabric or wooden blinds – avoid PVC plastics.
● Avoid toys, soothers, and soft plastic toys for young children – opt for natural rubber or silicone.