Phthalates. They are right up there with BPA, flame retardants, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)…they are in the “Toxic Top 10”. Here is a crash course on phthalates and how to reduce exposure to them; they are ubiquitous, in our air and I do not want my toddler or infant inhaling, ingesting, rubbing them on their skin, or touching them.

What are phthalates?

Phthalates are mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity). They are used primarily to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Phthalates are being phased out of many products in the United States, Canada, and European Union over health concerns. 1 They have been linked to lower testosterone levels, decreased sperm counts and poor sperm quality. Exposure to phthalates during development has been linked to malformations of the male reproductive tract and testicular cancer. Young children and developing fetuses are most at risk. Phthalates also have been associated with obesity, reduced female fertility, preterm birth and low birthweight, a worsening of allergy and asthma symptoms, and behavior changes.

Reduce exposure to phthalates

  • Skip the fragrance when choosing cosmetics, personal care products, cleaning products, detergents, and air fresheners. (Skip the cologne or perfume too!) Manufacturers aren’t required to list phthalates on the label, but any item listed as “fragrance” is often a chemical mixture that can contain phthalates. Look for shampoos that are paraben-free, phthalate-free, and sulfate-free, especially for young children.
  • Avoid buying plastics that may be treated with phthalates, including vinyl toys, shower curtains, and gloves. Look out for “PVC,” “V” or the “3” recycling code on the item or its packaging. For more information on PVC “the poison plastic” check out CHEJ’s website.
  • Avoid phthalates in your children’s school. Here is a great guide of ways to avoid PVC plastic in your children’s school supplies and building.
  • Clean up indoor air quality. Occasionally opening up windows and vacuuming with a HEPA filter are simple but effective ways to reduce indoor air pollutants. Plants are also a great way to clean up your indoor air. Some of the EPA’s highest ranked plants for filtering out toxics include: mother-in- law’s tongue, peace lilies, golden pathos and many more. See our post on houseplants to detoxify your house.


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