How to avoid phthalates – alternatives to every day items

How to find phthalate alternative products

We are exposed to phthalates from many sources, so avoiding them seems like a daunting task. However, if we consider  ‘what has phthalates in it?’ we can then look at alternatives for these products.

The main sources of exposure to phthalates fall into these categories:

Personal care products
Household items
Packaging
Toys and baby equipment
Cars
Medical uses
Environmental exposure
Let’s look at alternatives to phthalates in each of these areas:

 

Personal care products

Many toiletries such as shampoos, makeup and baby care products contain phthalates. Looking at the ingredients list reveals anything with ‘phthalate’ in the name, which is easy enough to avoid. The more common phthalates are known as DOP, DEHP and Diethyl phthalate, so look out for these too. However, when ‘fragrance’, ‘parfum’ or ‘perfume’ appear on the label, this can include many chemicals. Manufacturers don’t need to specify the components of these terms and they may include phthalates which stabilize the scent, giving it a longer shelf life. If a product isn’t labelled ‘Phthalate-free’ or ‘DEP-free’ then contacting the manufacturer is a good way to find out for certain if it contains phthalates. Other good phrases to look out for in cosmetics and toiletries include ‘no synthetic fragrance’ and ‘scented only with essential oils’. Phthalate free fragrance oils can be a good alternative to perfumes.

 

Household items

Anything with an obvious plastic smell is probably giving off phthalates, so to find phthalate free products, try and find alternatives with a less obvious smell. This applies to items such as raincoats, shower curtains, backpacks etc.
Synthetic air fresheners are one to avoid, choose natural fragrances instead.
Furnishings such as vinyl floors end to have high levels of phthalates, so if you have the option to choose, then a natural tile or wooden product makes a better alternative.

 

Packaging and water cups etc

Avoid plastic containers where you can

Phthalates can leach from packaging and storage containers into the food, especially high fat products such as meat and cheese. Even BPA free or phthalate free plastics may contain similar chemicals, so best of all is to avoid plastic entirely. Instead use glass for food storage and choose sippy cups and water bottles that are mostly stainless steel, glass or silicone. Buying food not prepackaged in plastic is the best way to further lower exposure. Milk in glass bottles, cheese wrapped in paper and yogurt and cheese in ‘phthalate free’ or ‘DEP-free’ packaging would be good alternatives.

Never heat food in plastic

If you do use plastic, make sure you don’t microwave food in Tupperware type containers or when using plastic wrap as this increases the rate of leaching into food.

Avoid plastics coded 3 and 7

Look for plastics with the recycling codes 1,2 or 5 as these don’t contain phthalates. Codes 3 and 7 may contain phthalates so are the ones particularly avoid.

 

Toys and baby equipment

Soft plastic toys may contain phthalates so should be avoided. Rigid plastic such as in lego doesn’t contain these plasticizers.
Teethers, bottles and pacifiers are now not allowed to contain phthalates, but this legislation only came into force in 2009, so avoid hand me downs if they could be from before this date.
Backpacks and lunchboxes are also the type of plastic to be careful of, check for a plastic smell, any labelling of ‘PVC free’, or use non plastic instead.

 

Cars

Some cars are now being produced with an eye on less toxicity or even have PVC free interiors. There is a league table of best and worst manufacturers: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-car-smell-is-toxic-study-says-which-cars-are-worst/

 

Medical uses

Some prescription pills are coated with phthalates to control when the tablets dissolve. It’s worth asking about this if you take regular medication.

Tubing used in IVs often contains phthalates, so it you use IVs regularly or are pregnant you may wish to ask for the PVC-free version.

 

Environmental exposure

Choose organic fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy. Phthalates are found in pesticides, which affects both conventional (non organic) crops and the animal feeds used in meat, egg and dairy production.
Use a water filter. This is because water may contain phthalates from the DEHP content of water pipes. Granulated activated carbon filters should remove most of this, or nano-filtration is a more complete alternative.
Dust, and air rooms as much as possible to remove phthalates leaching from vinyl or blinds. Sunlight causes PVC to degrade into dust so if you have PVC blinds, then you should dust frequently to remove this.

 

References

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maia-james/phthalates-health_b_2464248.html
https://draxe.com/phthalates/
http://www.healthychild.org/easy-steps/avoid-phthalates-find-phthalate-free-products-instead
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/may/26/is-plastic-food-packaging-dangerous

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