Phthalates (pronounced f-THAL-lates), are used to make plastics flexible, as lubricants in cosmetics,
fragrance in cosmetics, household cleaners, and medical devices.
Phthalates are known to disrupt the body’s hormones. A 2012 study found that women working in the
automotive and food-canning industries have nearly a fivefold increase in risk for premenopausal breast
cancer, likely because of their exposure to phthalates, BPA and flame-retardants. Phthalates have also
been linked to birth defects, asthma, neurodevelopmental problems in newborns, fertility issues and
obesity. Though phthalates are banned in children's toys, they can still be found in school supplies,
cosmetics and personal care products such as nail polish and shampoo.
Phthalates are everywhere and while it is nearly impossible to avoid them completely, it is by far best to
reduce exposure when ever possible. Some was to reduce exposure are:
- Get familiar, if you are not already, with the codes on the bottom of plastic bottles and jars.
Plastic products with recycling codes 3 and 7 may contain phthalates or BPA. Look for
plastic with codes 1, 2, 4, 5, 6. Avoid plastic food containers when possible but when not
possible look for the codes on the bottom not known to contain phthalates.
- Avoid fragrance oils made with phthalates. Unfortunately you will rarely see this
information on labels as it is not required by law in all states. But what you can do is
purchase perfumes or fragrances from sellers who makes their products from phthalates
free oils such as all essential oils.
- Avoid plastic toys made before 2009. Several types of phthalates are now banned from
children's toys, teethers, bottles, and feeding products. But these laws only took place in
2009, so anything made of soft plastic that was manufactured before that probably contains
- Avoid plastic whenever possible, and never heat your food in plastic. Foods that are
higher in fat -- meats and cheeses, for instance -- are particularly prone to chemical
leaching. Even BPA or phthalate-free plastic may contain harmful chemicals. Opt for glass
food storage containers, and choose bottles and sippy and snack cups that are mostly
stainless steel, silicone, or glass.
- Eat organic produce, meat, and dairy. Phthalates are used in pesticides and are also found
in sewage sludge that is used in conventional agriculture. Neither is permitted on certified
organic produce, and pesticide-treated animal feeds are not allowed in organic meat and
- Use refillable glass, porcelain and stainless-steel containers for food and beverages,
particularly for hot foods and liquids.
- Do not use plastic containers in microwaves, not even ones considered "microwave
These are just a few ways to avoid exposure to excessive amounts of phthalates. While at the time of this
writing in 2015, it is impossible to avoid all phthalates as they are nearly everywhere, it is a start. Getting
familiar with all products that contain phthalates is a valuable tool. For more information on phthalates click