What are Phthalates and what are they used for?
Phthalates (pronounced f-thal-lates), are used as plastic softeners and as lubricants and solubilisers (to dissolve things in) in cosmetics. Phthalates are not only found in plastics, they’re in everything from hairspray and nail polish, fragrances, perfumes, shampoo, air fresheners, laundry powders, vinyl, cars, coatings on wires and cables, shower curtains and much more.
What’s the problem with Phthalates?
Phthalates are endocrine disrupters and hormone mimickers, leading to problems such as low fertility, early puberty in girls, premature births and testicular cancer. Studies are also showing that phthalates are linked to obesity.
How do I avoid Phthalates?
It’s not always easy to avoid phthalates, because many products don’t list them on the label (unless the label says “phthalate free”).
Read the list of ingredients in products. You may see phthalates listed by their chemical names:
- DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate). Often found in skincare and personal care products, such as deodorants, perfumes and aftershaves, shampoos and hair gels.
- DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate). Used in PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastics.
- BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate). Used in floor products (lino or vinyl), cars and in personal care products.
- DMP (dimethyl phthalate). Used in some plastics, as well as insect repellents.
Choose safer plastics. Plastics with recycling codes, 1, 2 or 5 are better than plastics marked with a 3 or a 7 (these are more likely to contain both phthalates and BPA). See Hello Charlie’s Guide to Safer Plastics for more useful information. http://blog.hellocharlie.com.au/2012/04/what-do-the-numbers-on-plastics-mean/
Avoid products with fragrances or perfumes. When you see these words on a product, it just about always means that you’re getting an added serve of phthalates. Look for skincare products that say ‘phthalate free’, ‘no synthetic fragrance’ or that use only essential oils.
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