Firstly – what are phthalates? They are a ‘plasticizer compound’ that make fragrances last longer and they make certain plastics uber bendy / soft / stretchy – think of those kids goopy coloured gels and ‘ monster slime’ from a toy shop or a cheap puzzle play mat or a PVC raincoat or contact paper or vinyl flooring.
When we talk about personal care and cleaning, so many “green products” still contain this synthetic fragrance component and it really, truly bugs me. How can it be that something proven unsafe is in so many products? Well, unfortunately, while safe chemical bills are able to be squished in the halls of Congress thanks to the powerful chemical lobby’s generous payoffs to politicians, then we have to get aware, avoid them ourselves, and change the market from the grass roots.
It’s also partly because we’ve come to demand ‘long lasting fragrance’ and we need a reframe. It’s just not natural and these days there are so many beautiful options.
Phthalates are often used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl – things that have no business being on our skin in the first place. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is made softer and more flexible by the addition of phthalates. Phthalates are used in hundreds of consumer products – too many to list but consider the range from raincoats to nail polish to conditioners, scented candles, yoga mats and even cute little rubber duckies! Not all variants of these things, granted, but most.
I thought i’d share a few more reasons why you shouldn’t want them near you – let alone in stuff you put on or in your body. Ewwww, no thank you!
1. They’re linked to metabolic syndrome
This study showed that in 2700 participants, people with high levels of phthalates in their urine were found to have a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Basically, phthalates wreak havoc on your hormones which can set off a whole host of issues – as we all know only too well, hormones are hard to balance on the best of days, let alone synthetic interference confusing our bodies further.
2. They can make menopause even more unpleasant
Higher levels of phthalates in the urine of menopausal women appear to correlate with intensity and frequency of hot flashes. This is why a lot of menopausal women ditch the perfume and chemical laden products when they hit the change – many women become chemically sensitive.
3. They cause changes in male baby genital anatomy and sperm counts
There is much documented research that points to phthalate exposure in mothers to be and genital abnormalities in baby boys. How heart breaking is that!? Completely unavoidable. I’ve had a couple of mums in Go Low Tox with baby boys born with tiny penises or other genital area issues. There are also research papers to suggest a result of 50% lower sperm counts on average in the past 50 years have been reported, linked to phthalate exposure in part (But get that phone out of your front trouser pocket gents. That’s a huge culprit too!). Is that not crazy? (source: Disappearing male).
4. They produce a variety of hormone disrupting toxins
These toxins can have a huge effect on our endocrine systems – we’re talking anything from adrenals, to sex hormones, to thyroid… Over exposure isn’t easy to measure of course, because we all respond uniquely to such disruption, making it also very tricky to treat for practitioners!
5. Risk of exposure is high
Exposure to phthalates can occur by ingestion, inhalation, and through skin contact. Plastic storage containers (particularly heated ones!) can contaminate the foods stored inside them. Im a big fan of switching everything over to glass! Phthalate-containing products even shed dust that we breathe in and when we put phthalate-ridden cosmetics on our skin it’s absorbed straight into our bodies. It’s easy to cut down our exposure but we need to know where to look for it!
6. They cause lots of other problems too
Some phthalates have been linked to breast and other cancers, allergies, obesity and thyroid conditions. Lots of weight, mood, stress and skin conditions can be fixed by reducing our exposure to phthalates which means ditching ‘fake smells’, dodgy plastics and PVC as a brilliant and massive first step.
My top 3 to ditch to get your exposure lower from today?
- Scented body lotion that’s not specified scented with essential oils. Our body is the biggest area of our body’s biggest organ – the skin! So switching that out first is a big step.
- Scented fabric softeners – These are thought to be responsible for up to 90% of indoor air pollution in the average home. Soften insteaf with 1/2 cup white vinegar, a heaped tbsp bi-carb and pop 20 drops of your favourite essential oil on a tea towel in with the clothes going into the dryer if you use one and want your clothes to be scented. Nature knows best!
- Air fresheners. Open a window or diffuse essential oils. You do not want synthetic fragrances being pumped through your home. You might think it smells yummy now, but trust me after detoxing them from your home and in just two weeks, if you smell a fake fragrance out and about it will hit you like a tonne of bricks!
And the good news? The issue with phthalates is, sure, all of the above but the good news is we can detox from them quite quickly. it’s the sheer amount and constant assault that stuffs us around, so if you reduce what you have control over in the home, then the odd exposure out and about is for the large majority of people, no big deal.
If you want to blitz through all the aspects of day to day life and Go Low Tox, the next round is JUNE 5. Phthalates are about 1/100th of the over all content to give you an idea of the breadth of what we cover. It’s awesome, super positive and I’m with you every step of the way. If not, focus on those three things to ditch and you’ll be well on your way!
Low Tox. Happy People. Happy Planet