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 phthalates do – and the products that contain them – you can make better-informed decisions for you and your family.

What Are Phthalates Found in? 

Man-made, colorless, odorless, oily chemicals, phthalates are found in hundreds of products, including: 

  • Children’s toys 
  • Cosmetics, lotions, and other personal care products
  • Food containers and wraps 
  • Household cleaners
  • Medical devices
  • Vinyl flooring and wall coverings
dangers of phthalates

Why Are Phthalates Used? 

Many manufacturers use phthalates in household goods because they make plastics softer and more flexible. Phthalates in cosmetics, personal products, and household cleaners are typically used to bind ingredients together and preserve fragrances. 

How Does Phthalate Exposure Occur? 

Phthalate exposure can happen in several ways: 

  • Most commonly, it occurs through consuming food and beverages stored in containers that include phthalates.
  • Particles and vapors are breathed in from household furnishings, sprays, and cleaners.
  • Skin absorption can occur via shampoo, soaps, lotions, and other personal care products.
phthalates in soap

Potential Phthalate Dangers 

While more research is needed to fully understand the dangers of phthalates, early studies suggest a link between exposure and a wide range of health and developmental problems, including: 

  • Asthma
  • Behavioral issues
  • Breast cancer
  • Early-onset puberty
  • Male fertility issues 
  • Obesity
  • Reproductive development problems

Phthalates & Pregancy

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.” 

How Can I Avoid Phthalates? 

Under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, all cosmetics 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 

The FDA Doesn’t Require Phthalate Disclosure in Fragrances

Because flavor and fragrance are considered to be “trade secrets”, the FDA doesn't require manufacturers to disclose their ingredient lists. This loophole means that you can’t be completely sure that your product is phthalate-free – even if it doesn’t appear on the ingredient label. 

what are phthalates found in

To be on the safe side, choose personal care products made by companies that are entirely phthalate-free. If you select any products that include fragrances, essential oils are a smarter choice than synthetic fragrances.

Choose Smart Packaging, Too

When buying plastic goods, we recommend avoiding products that are labeled with the number 3 and the letters “V” or “PVC.” It’s preferable to opt for plastics labeled with the numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5.

Get the best tips from the cleaning obsessed.

Puracy crafts cleaning & care items that work really well. Our obsession with natural cleaning performance is our profession, and we're here to share it with you.

safe plastic numbers


When it comes to Puracy packaging, all of our bottles are made of PETE 1. This BPA-free, inert, highly-recyclable plastic won’t leach harmful chemicals into the products used in your home and around your family.

Consider our BPA-free refill pouches, which use 90% less plastic compared to bottles – then add our reusable, built-to-last Infinity Glass Bottles to ditch the plastic bottles altogether.

Puracy: Forever Phthalate-Free Formulas 

All of our plant-based home and body products are created with your safety in mind. From our natural household surface cleaners to our enzyme stain removers, you’ll effectively remove dirt and grime – without the questionable ingredients. 


Puracy phthalate free

To learn more about phthalates and other ingredients to consider avoiding, check out these earlier posts: 

Harmful Ingredients in Baby Products That You Should Avoid
Personal Care Ingredients to Avoid: What to Watch For
What Is Dimethicone and Is It Safe?