You may have heard the term before, maybe have had some concerns about how it might affect your health.
Like BPA, phthalates have been getting more and more exposure in the media due to their relative widespread use and potential health risk. Also like BPA, phthalates are known to be hormone disruptors, meaning they can interfere with normal body signaling and hormone regulation.
You can read more about our take on BPA here. Today, however, we’ll be focusing on phthalates: what they are, how to avoid exposure, and how to boost your body’s ability to detoxify them. In Part 2 we’ll focus on how to avoid exposure and how to use your body’s natural defenses to reduce health risks.
What are Phthalates?
Phthalates are a group of chemicals called plasticizers used to soften plastics and improve durably and transparency. They are commonly used to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC). There are several names under which they’re marketed. The most common include DiNP, DiDP, DMP, DEP and DBP. A lot of research has surrounded DEHP and its health risks, which has been largely replaced by newer forms. However, their safety has yet to be established.
Effects of phthalates on health
The most widely known effect of phthalate toxicity is on testosterone levels, sperm count, and male reproduction. There’s also evidence that in utero, phthalates can impact sex differentiation and development due to the effect on the part of the brain responsible for this. Studies also link phthalate toxicity to asthma, respiratory disease, and cancer. Increased abdominal fat, insulin resistance and elevated blood pressure have also been linked to phthalate exposure and accumulation– and indecently are also risk factors for metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.
Sources and exposure
Phthalates are widely used and can be found in cosmetics and personal care products, including perfume, hair spray, soap, shampoo, nail polish, and skin moisturizers. They are very commonly used in products such as flexible plastic and vinyl toys, shower curtains, wallpaper, plastic wrap, and vinyl blinds as well as wood finish and lacquer, detergents, adhesives, and plastic plumbing pipes. These products may release phthalates into the air, allowing the aerosolized form to be breathed in and into circulation.
Phthalates are also found in medical tubing and fluid bags, solvents, medical devices, and some extended release pharmaceutical formulations. Concerns over health risks, have led some manufacturers to eliminate phthalates or use alternatives.
Research has found foods and water can be contaminated and those noted to have high phthalate levels include meat (chicken), dairy (especially creams and full-fat products), some bread and cereal products, seafood and some spices. Produce sprayed with insecticides may also have significant phthalate levels. Plastic food containers and water bottles can contaminate foods and water supply, as can use of pesticides. It’s interesting to note, that recyclable plastic imprinted with recycle symbol 3 indicates phthalate content.
Ready to see how some simple lifestyle changes and dietary boosts can help reduce phthalate exposure and reduce your health risk? Head over to read Part 2: Avoiding exposure and boosting natural defenses.
PS-We are giving away this awesome periodic table shower curtain! Get the info here and sign up. Winner will be chosen September 30th!
- Serrano SE, Braun J, Trasande L, Dills R, Sathyanarayana S.Phthalates and diet: a review of the food monitoring and epidemiology data. Environ Health. 2014 Jun 2;13(1):43. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-13-43
- Teresa M. Attina and Leonardo Trasande. Association of Exposure to Di-2-Ethylhexylphthalate Replacements With Increased Insulin Resistance in Adolescents From NHANES 2009–2012. JCEM. 2015 May 20; 100(3) http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2015-1686
- Stephen J. Genuis, Sanjay Beesoon, Rebecca A. Lobo, and Detlef Birkholz. man Elimination of Phthalate Compounds: Blood, Urine, and Sweat (BUS) Study. The Scientific World Journal. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 615068, 10 pages. http://dx.doi.org/10.1100/2012/615068
- Tox Town – Phthalates – Toxic chemicals and environmental health risks where you live and work – Text Version. (2015, May 13). Retrieved August 22, 2015.
- University of Minnesota. Phthalates: Absorption, distribution and metabolism. (2003). Retrieved August 22, 2015.
- EWG. Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors. (2013, October 28). Retrieved August 22, 2015.