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Phthalates: Why the fuss, and how to avoid them.

Phthalates are esters or salts that manufacturers have included in many different commercial products since the 1950s. These chemicals give vinyl and plastic greater flexibility, which makes them less likely to break. They're also lubricants, and they help various substances to dissolve faster.


Unfortunately, medical researchers have been discovering lately that phthalates are not as benign as many people once assumed.

Where Do You Find Phthalates?

Phthalates lurk in many adhesives, raincoats, shampoos, soaps, vinyl floors, fragrances, air fresheners, nail polishes, moisturizers, electronic devices, kids' lunchboxes, wallpapers, shower curtains, toys, garden hoses, medical tubes and construction materials. The list goes on and on.

Products with phthalates may emit tiny particles or vapors that can be inhaled. Phthalates can pass from plastic containers into foods and beverages. And, when you use a cosmetic that has these substances, they might seep into your skin.

Due to these factors, 95 percent of Americans have detectable quantities of phthalates in their urine.

What's the Problem?

When they're inside the body, phthalates can get in the way of the endocrine system. In part, that's because they act like various hormones, which can confuse the endocrine organs and stop them from producing and releasing the right hormones in the right amounts.

Certain phthalates may lead to reproductive problems like a lower sperm count and difficulty conceiving. At least one type of phthalate may cause cancer.

Moreover, phthalates might make children more likely to experience early puberty, and there could be a link between asthma and these chemicals.

Staying Away from Phthalates

It can be tricky to figure out which consumer goods have phthalates, and it's almost impossible to avoid them entirely. Nevertheless, if you see a label with "PVC," which stands for "polyvinyl chloride," the product likely has them.

To reduce your exposure to phthalates, eat more organic foods, drink from glass rather than plastic containers and don't rub lotions into your baby's skin. Keep plastic items out of your dishwasher and microwave, and don't buy too many canned items or fragrances.

Of course, the simplest and most effective way to evade phthalates and other harmful ingredients is to rely on our easy-to-understand rating system. It lets you see, at a glance, how safe and healthy the materials used are. That way, you can be certain that they lack dangerous ingredients like phthalates

The full truth about phthalates and their consequences isn't yet known. So far, only limited phthalate studies have been conducted. However, when the health of your family is on the line, safe is always better than sorry.


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