Written by Stacey Kelleher.
You see phthalates in soap, lotion, and hundreds of other personal products. In fact, they're so popular that they're commonly referred to as "the everywhere chemical." So what are phthalates used for – and is it possible to avoid them?
What Are Phthalates?
Also known as phthalate esters, phthalates are a group of man-made, colorless, odorless, oily chemicals.
Not-So-Fun Fact: Certain phthalates are known endocrine disruptors.
What Are Phthalates Used for?
Since they're most often used to bind ingredients and help fragrances last longer, phthalate uses are wide-ranging in cosmetics, personal products, and household cleaners.
They can also be used to make plastics softer, more flexible, and transparent.
Where Are Phthalates Found?
Referred to as "the everywhere chemical," avoiding phthalates can be tricky. You can find them in:
- 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:
- Consuming food and beverages stored in containers that use phthalates.
- Absorbing phthalates in products like soap, shampoo, perfumes, and lotion via skin contact.
- Breathing air that contains phthalate particles and vapors (which can be released from household furnishings, sprays, and cleaners).
- Phthalate-containing products being placed in children's mouths.
How to Identify Phthalates in 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
Choose Fragrances Wisely
Flavor and fragrance are considered “trade secrets.” That means the FDA doesn’t require manufacturers to disclose their ingredient lists – even though there can be hundreds of ingredients in a fragrance! This makes it incredibly difficult to know how to identify phthalates in products.
If you choose any scented products, make sure they're formulated with essential oils (not synthetic fragrances). You know, like the entire Puracy product lineup!
Choose Smarter Packaging
Whenever you buy plastic goods, avoid products that are labeled with the number 3 and the letters “V” or “PVC.” It’s preferable to select 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 won't leach into products. You can also ditch the plastic bottles altogether, by using a reusable, built-to-last glass bottle.
Are Phthalates Dangerous?
Phthalates make up a huge class of chemicals, each with a slightly different chemical structure. Over the past few decades, multiple studies have suggested 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
1. Phthalates and Morbidity
A 2021 study found that adults with the highest concentrations of phthalate levels in their urine had a greater likelihood of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Though more definitive research needs to be done – especially when it comes to hormone disruption and inflammatory response – these findings are particularly damning.
2. Phthalates and Lowered Testosterone Levels
Declining testosterone levels in all populations has also been linked to elevated phthalate exposure. This follows a similar trend of reduced semen quality in men and genital defects in male newborns. Low testosterone levels in boys can cause serious reproductive development issues, as well as libido and cognitive function later in life.
3. Phthalates and Birth Defects
Classified as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), phthalates interfere with thyroid and sex hormone production. Because they've been shown to cross the placenta, expectant mothers should be especially mindful of avoiding phthalates.
Another recent study on expectant mothers and phthalate exposure revealed suspected links to “preterm birth, preeclampsia, maternal glucose disorders, infant cryptorchidism, infant hypospadias, and shorter anogenital distance in newborns.”
Puracy: 100% Phthalate Free & 100% Guaranteed
Our incredible team of biochemists have developed each of our hypoallergenic formulas for safety and comfort. You'll never have to worry about phthalates in products – or sulfates, parabens, chlorine, perfumes, artificial fragrances, and a slew of other questionable ingredients.
In fact, we're so confident in our award-winning household cleaners and full lineup of personal care essentials, they're backed by a 100% money-back guarantee!