Avoiding Phthalates In Cleaning and DisinfectingHere’s where you’ll find these toxic compounds and why you should avoid them.
What Are Phthalates and Where Do You Find themIf you have plastic in your home, you probably have phthalates, too. This class of chemicals is used to make plastics more flexible and less prone to snapping or breaking. Phthalates also help the scent of a fragrance linger longer, so they’re also found in pretty much all fragranced products. You’ll find phthalates in personal care products like moisturizer and soap products as well as hair sprays and perfumes – and even nail polish. In the cleaning category, you’ll find phthalates in softeners, solvents, fragrances, plasticizers, and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) products. You will even find phthalates in dairy and meat from animals exposed to these compounds and in food that has been packaged in plastic that contains phthalates.
What’s So Bad About Phthalates?Phthalates are a family of chemicals, so different phthalates behave in different ways – most of them in ways linked to adverse health effects in people and animals. Three phthalates (BBP, DBP, and DEHP) have been banned permanently from toys and pacifiers for children under 3 (who may teethe or suck on them). These phthalates have been found to damage reproductive systems and cause cancer in rats and are suspected to do so in humans as well. In humans, phthalates like DiDP can irritate and injure our skin and eyes and cause nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. DINP is linked to tumors and developmental problems in rats and in California it is considered a chemical known to cause cancer. DnOP is linked to endometriosis in women and reproductive development in rats. DiDP, DINP, and DnOP are all on an interim ban from toys that can go into a child’s mouth. And a recent large study across over 5,000 people linked phthalates to premature deaths – up to 107.000 annually – among adults aged 55-64. Some of the health risks associated with phthalates include:
- Birth defects
- Respiratory problems
- Behavioral problems in children
- Premature birth
- Genital malformations and undescended testes in baby boys
- Lower sperm counts in men
- Skin irritation and injury
- Eye irritation and injury
How Can You Avoid Phthalates?It’s difficult to avoid phthalates in cleaning products and personal care products for one main reason. Fragrances are considered trade secrets, which means manufacturers aren’t required to disclose their fragrance ingredients. In fact, the one word “fragrance” on an ingredient label can hide a cocktail of up to 100 sneaky ingredients. Some ways to avoid phthalates are:
- Avoid products that are scented or fragranced. And be wary of “unscented” products, because many of these contain masking fragrances.
- Avoid ingredients with acronyms like DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DiDP, and DnOP
- Plastics with recycling codes 3, 6, & 7