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 phthalates.
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 dairy production.
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 safe".
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 here