Can Phthalates in Plastic Lead to Chronic Diseases?

You’d never think lathering your hair with shampoo or accenting your home with a scented candle could be harmful to your health, but you may be wrong. It’s unfortunate that these everyday items, and many more, contain phthalates, a family of chemicals used as plasticizers. Phthalates are used in plastics to make them more transparent, durable and flexible. They can be found in personal hygiene products, children’s toys and even some medical devices—go figure!

So, you’re probably wondering, “how, exactly, is this chemical harmful?” While scientists around the world have tested phthalate levels in different populations and been unable to find precise evidence that there is a link between the chemical and serious illnesses, there are several studies that explore the idea that high levels of phthalate may cause diabetes, high blood pressure and more.

Phthalate linked to Chronic Illnesses

A study published in Environmental Research found that Phthalates were detected in 99.6 percent of the Australian men involved in the study aged 35 or older. Researchers identified the men in the study battling a chronic disease, and looked closely at their phthalate levels. They found that high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes were commonly found in the men with higher levels of phthalate.  It’s important to note that 82% of the 1,500 men involved in the study were overweight or obese, which can increase one’s risk of the diseases listed above. However, once researchers considered this fact, and modified their findings accordingly, there was still a significant correlation between elevated phthalate levels and these chronic diseases.

Reduce Your Risk of Exposure

Phthalate is found in so many of our everyday items, it is nearly impossible to avoid all contact, but awareness is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of exposure.  The following items are common carriers of Phthalates:

Personal Care Products

  • Nail polish
  • Makeup & hair spray
  • Perfumes
  • Soaps & shampoo
  • Lotion, moisturizers & aftershave
  • Infant care products
  • Medication

Vinyl

  • Blinds
  • Flooring
  • Wallpaper
  • Diaper mats
  • Rain gear
  • Inflatable mattresses
  • School supplies
  • Shower curtains

Food & Beverages

  • Food& liquid containers
  • Fast food
  • Baby food & formula
  • Pesticides

 Miscellaneous

  • Scented candles
  • Air fresheners & plug-ins
  • Electronics
  • Plastic jewelry & party favors
  • Pacifiers
  • Toys & Crafts

Preventive Measures

Avoid scented body care

  • Opt for products that are scented with essential oils.
  • Use phthalate-free nail polish and hair spray.
  • Avoid body products that include ‘parfum,’ or ‘fragrance’ as an ingredient.

Household items.

  • Don’t use cleaning products, candles or plug-ins that include ‘parfum,’ or ‘fragrance’ as an ingredient.
  • Clean surfaces with white vinegar to diminish odors rather than spraying disinfectants.
  • Use baking soda in garbage bins, litter boxes and diaper bins to kill odors.
  • Opt for cloth shower curtains instead of plastic and use PVC-free liners.
  • Opt for window blinds made from wood, cotton, linen or bamboo instead of plastic.
  • Opt for flooring made from natural wood, bamboo or linoleum rather than vinyl.

Baby and child-friendly products

  • Use baby products made of natural rubber or silicone rather than plastic.
  • Opt for homemade baby food or pre-made in a glass jar, rather than plastic containers.
  • Provide silicon, rubber or wooden toys, instead of plastic.
  • Use fragrance-free shampoo, soaps and lotions.
  • Rather than plastic school supplies, provide kids with notebooks, binders and lunchboxes made of metal, cardboard or cloth.

Food & beverage choices

  • Drink from glass bottles rather than plastic.
  • Avoid plastic wrapped foods and opt for fresh foods instead.
  • Rather than storing food in plastic containers, use glass or stainless steel.
  • Do not reheat food in plastic.

Although there is no definitive link between phthalates and chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, reducing exposure to this group of chemicals is safest for you and your family’s long-term health. Find out another major way you can significantly reduce your risk of these diseases.  

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