Phthalates: hormone disruptors in plastics & cosmetics


Phthalates are in just about everything, yet are never mentioned on ingredient list. Why should you avoid Phthalates anyway, and how can you do it ?

Phthalates are softening agents in PVC plastics and vinyl. Phthalates are easily released into the environment, so we are exposed to them constantly. As plastics age and break down, more and more phthalates are released... into food or your baby's mouth.

Phthalates are in just about everything: plastics, kids items, PVC flooring... More than 70% of cosmetic products contain phthalates. A legal loophole in the law allows phthalates to be added to perfumes without being listed among ingredients. Perfumes are added to nearly every conceivable cosmetic product.

Why should you bother about phthalates ?

Phthalates are linked to asthma, and disruption of genital developement in children. especially feminisation of boys. It may also make you fat, since endocrine disruption may be to blame for obesity.

Another overblown scare ?

Scientific evidence has been strong enough for the European Union to take action against phthalates. In 1999 the EU has banned Phthalates in children products. This shows that they take the risk of phthalates seriously.

Are phthalates necessary in products ?

"Actually, it’s not difficult for companies to use alternatives to these toxic ingredients. In the recent tests, Poison perfume by Christian Dior – which in 2002 was the most contaminated product with four phthalates (DBP, DEHP, BBP and DEP) – had no detectable levels of phthalates in three of the four bottles tested in 2008, and low levels of DEP in the fourth bottle. There have been no indications that consumers even noticed the difference. This shows that it's possible to make products without toxic chemicals." -- "A Little Prettier" report FAQs

Of special concern: Phthalates and kids

Kids are exposed to larger amounts of phthalates than adults, and are more vulnerable to them. Outside the EU, products for kids are likely to contain more phthalates (to make them soft). And kids chew everything. Toys, bottles, pacifiers, teethers, changing mats and even perfumed diaper usually contain phthalates. Remember that as the plastic ages, it releases more and more phthalates. Source
Do read Ideas on Phthalate-free toys and How to avoid Phthalates in baby Products.

Tips on avoiding Phthalates:

  • Read cosmetic labels. You'll seldom find "phthalate" on a label, since Phthalates are a class of chemicals. In cosmetic products, look for DBP or di-n-butyl phthalate, and DEP or diethyl phthalate
  • Cosmetics: anything with synthetic fragnances. Apart from probably containing phthalates, they are among top 5 allergens and harm sensitive skin.
  • Ditch the air-fresheners. Even the fragrance-free ones contain phthlates. *read more*
  • Switch to a non-vinyl shower curtain. Try to avoid vinyl products since it contains high amaounts of phthalates. If you do buy vinyl, air it out for several days before bringing it home.
  • Don't eat and store food in plastics. Try to use SIGG bottles instead of plastic water bottles, metal lunch-bixes, glass or ceramics to store food.
  • Don't microwave food in plastics, since that increases the risk of the leaching of phthalates.
  • Buy non-finished (unpainted etc) wooden toys for the kids. They are more aesthetic anyway.
  • At least avoid plastics with PVC, which contains phthalates. Go for rubber or latex.
  • Be careful while buying "adult toys".
  • U.S. residents: choose plastics with the recycling code 1, 2 or 5 are less likely to contain phthalates than recycling codes 3 and 7.
  • EU residents: discard plastic toys manufactured in 1999 or earlier, before tha no-phthalate law was inforced.
  • More ideas + list of alternatives here.

* If we don’t buy this junk, they can’t continue to make it. *

Take action:

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has a couple of 2-minute things you can do.

More info:

A little prettier: Campaign for safe cosmetics
pollution in people

Photo by Eternal*Voyageur    

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