Patricia S. Lemer, MEd, NCC fills us in about the dangers of phthalates, another family of toxic chemicals, in this blog post.
Phthalates (pronounced THAY-lates) are plasticizers used to add texture and luster to hair spray, deodorant, nail polish, lipstick, perfumes and many other products. These ubiquitous chemicals can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled as fumes, and ingested if children mouth toys made out of plastic. Thousands of studies have shown that phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system.
In pregnant women, phthalates pass through the placenta to be absorbed by the fetus. Later, they show up in the breast milk of nursing mothers, whose babies ingest them. In male fetuses and infants, phthalates can cause testicular atrophy, leading to a reduced sperm count.
As we learn more about the role of toxins in disease and developmental delays, reducing our toxic load must be a priority.
What Can You Do About Phthalates?
Discover what toxins are lurking in the most commonly used baby products, cosmetics, deodorants, dental, eye, nail and skin care products, fragrances, and other personal-care products, and switch to less-toxic alternatives. Both the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are excellent resources to use to determine which personal-care products contain phtalates. In particular, the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database rates personal-care products on a scale of zero to ten, with a rating of zero being the safest.
Remember, phthalates are just part of the story; some products contain other toxins, such as aluminum, parabens, neurotoxins, perfumes, carcinogens and other toxins.
In addition, look for the EWG-verified seal of approval on personal-care that meet their strictest standards; Made Safe’s seal of approval means that personal-care as well as household products are made only with safe, non-toxic ingredients. Be careful not to assume that all products within a particular brand are safe; you need to check each product individually for its safety and non-toxicity.
More Measures to Reduce Your Toxic Load
Use Fewer Products Less Often
Cut down the number of chemicals contacting your skin every day either by totally eliminating use of non-essential products or using them less often.
Claims like “organic,” “natural,” “hypoallergenic,” “animal cruelty free,” and “fragrance free” are poorly defined by law. Only by carefully reading ingredient labels can you discover which claims are true.
Use Mild Soaps to Reduce Need for Moisturizers
Less-harsh soaps can remove dirt and grease from the surface of your skin without taking away the body’s natural oils. Let your skin do some of the work naturally.
Minimize Use of Hair Dye
Avoid dyes that contain coal-tar ingredients, as they have been linked to cancer in some studies.
Cut Down on Use of Powders
Avoid using baby powder with newborns and infants. A number of ingredients have been linked to cancer and other lung problems, when they are inhaled.
Choose Products That Are Fragrance-Free
Fragrances can cause allergic reactions, and mask odors of some other ingredients.
Avoid or Reduce Use of Nail Polish
Paint toenails; skip the fingernails. Polish routinely contains ingredients linked to birth defects. Paint nails in a well-ventilated room, or outside, or avoid using nail polish altogether, particularly when you are pregnant.