Written by Stacey Kelleher.
There’s been a lot of recent conversation regarding the potential health risks of phthalates. But if there are potential dangers, why are they in so many everyday products?
By learning more about what these chemicals do – and where phthalates are found – you'll be able to make better-informed decisions for you and your family.
What Are Phthalates?
Phthalates (also known as phthalate esters) are a group of man-made, colorless, odorless, oily chemicals. Certain phthalates are known endocrine disruptors.
What Are Phthalates Used for?
In household goods, phthalates are often used as plasticizers (make plastics softer, more flexible, and transparent).
When it comes to phthalates in cosmetics, personal products, and household cleaners, these chemicals are typically used to bind ingredients together and help fragrances last longer.
Where Are Phthalates Found?
There's a reason why these are referred to as "the everywhere chemicals": They're found in thousands of products, including:
- Children’s toys
- Personal care products (like soap, cosmetics, & shampoo)
- Food packaging and wraps
- Household cleaners
- Medical devices
- PVC plumbing
- Vinyl flooring and wall coverings
How Does Phthalate Exposure Occur?
Phthalate exposure can happen in several ways:
- The most common way is by consuming food and beverages stored in containers that use phthalates.
- We can also breathe in air that contains phthalates particles and vapors released from household furnishings, sprays, and cleaners.
- Skin absorption can occur via phthalates in shampoo, soaps, lotions, and other personal care products.
Note: Children who place phthalate-containing products in their mouths may also ingest these chemicals orally.
Are Phthalates Dangerous?
For decades, multiple studies have warned of phthalate dangers. It should be noted, however, that phthalates comprise a huge class of chemicals, each with a slightly different chemical structure.
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That said, many studies suggest a link between exposure and a wide range of health and developmental problems, including:
- Behavioral issues
- Breast cancer
- Early-onset puberty
- Male fertility issues
- Reproductive development problems
Phthalates and Morbidity
Most recently, a 2021 NYU Grossman School of Medicine study determined that older adults with the highest concentrations of phthalate levels in urine had a greater likelihood of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. While more research needs to be done to definitively understand these chemicals' roles (especially in hormone disruption and inflammatory response), these findings are damning.
Phthalates and Lowered Testosterone Levels
Declining testosterone levels in men, women, and children has recently been linked to elevated phthalate exposure. This also follows a similar trend of reduced semen quality in men and genital defects in male newborns. Low testosterone levels in boys can seriously impact reproductive development, as well as libido and cognitive function later in life.
Phthalates and Birth Defects
Phthalates are classified as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and interfere with thyroid and sex hormone production. Because they are shown to cross the placenta, expectant mothers should be especially mindful of exposure throughout their pregnancy.
According to a recent study on expectant mothers and phthalate exposure, there were suspected links to, “preterm birth, preeclampsia, maternal glucose disorders, infant cryptorchidism, infant hypospadias, and shorter anogenital distance in newborns.”
Avoiding Phthalates in Personal Products
Under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, all manufacturers and producers are required to disclose ingredients to consumers. To identify makeup and personal care products that contain phthalates, look for three or four-word acronyms that refer to their chemical structure, like:
- DEP: Diethyl phthalate
- DMP: Dimethyl phthalate
- DBP: Dibutyl phthalate
- DINP: Diisononyl phthalate
- DNOP: Di-n-octyl phthalate
- BBP: Benzyl butyl phthalate
Remember: The FDA Doesn’t Require Phthalate Disclosure for Fragrances
Because flavor and fragrance are considered to be “trade secrets”, the FDA doesn’t require manufacturers to disclose their ingredient lists. And there can be hundreds of ingredients in a product's fragrance! This makes it incredibly difficult to identify phthalates in products.
This loophole means that you can’t be completely sure what's in your personal care products, unless it comes with a clear "phthalate-free" disclaimer.
Choose personal care products that are manufactured by phthalate-free companies. If you choose any scented products, make sure they're essential oils (not synthetic fragrances). You know, like the entire Puracy product lineup!
Choose Smarter Packaging
Whenever you buy plastic goods, we recommend avoiding products that are labeled with the number 3 and the letters “V” or “PVC.” It’s preferable to choose plastics that are labeled with the numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5.
All of Puracy's bottles are made of PETE 1. This BPA-free, inert, highly-recyclable plastic doesn't include phthalates and therefore won't leach them into the products used in your home and by your family.
To ditch the plastic bottles altogether, our BPA-free refill pouches use 90% less plastic compared to bottles – then add our reusable, built-to-last Puracy Infinity Glass Bottles.
Puracy: 100% Phthalate Free Products
All of our sulfate-, paraben- and phthalate-free products are created with your family's safety and comfort in mind. From our award-winning enzymatic stain removers to our 99.96% Natural Laundry Detergent, these products effectively remove dirt and grime – without the questionable ingredients.