Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Scoop on Phthalates

Phthalates are a class of chemicals that are produced at extremely high volumes. Manufacturers typically use phthalates to increase the flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity of plastics. They are also used in personal care products such as hair spray and shampoo as a solvent.

According to the EPA
, phthalates “are used in medical applications and have been detected in food. A number of phthalates appear in bio-monitoring surveys of human tissues, evidencing widespread human exposure (CDC 2009).” This is just one example of how widespread phthalate exposure is in our environments.

There is a lot of discussion about the adverse effects of phthalates. The most common reason for avoiding phthalates is because exposure to phthalates has the potential to adversely affect the human reproductive system.

According to the EPA, “the reproductive developmental effects observed in humans include shortened anogenital distance observed in newborn boys; and shortened pregnancy, lower sex and thyroid hormones, and reduced sperm quality observed in adults.”It should be noted that exposure to Phthalates doesn’t just begin after birth, it begins in utero and continues throughout the course of your life. (EPA)

There has also recently been some press linking phthalates to a rise in autism among children.

What does that mean for Baby?

Babies can have direct exposure to phthalates via toys, teethers, or other children’s products made of flexible PVC (plastic).

Luckily for us parents, a law was passed in 2008 that prohibits the sale of any children’s toy that contains 0.1 percent of" DEHP, DBP, or BBP (types of phtalates) as well as prohibits the sale of any children’s toy that can be placed in a child’s mouth or child care article that contains concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of" DINP, DIDP, DnOP (other phthalates).

How can you determine whether a product contains phthalates or not?

  • · As always, read the label! If a label contains any of the following abbreviations or chemical names, according to Pollution in People and The Daily Green, the product certainly contains phthalates.

  • “DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) are often found in personal care products, including nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes and cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions. (BzBP, see below, is also in some personal care products.
  • DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) is used in PVC plastics, including some medical devices.
  • BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) is used in some flooring, car products and personal care products.
  • DMP (dimethyl phthalate) is used in insect repellent and some plastics.
  • The ingredient “Fragrance” might also be reason for concern as it is used to “denote a combination of compounds, possibly including phthalates.”
  • Always choose plastics with the recycling code 1,2 or 5. Recycling codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain bisphenol A or phtalates.

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