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Phthalates in Cosmetics

Cosmetics are a major part of our daily routine and many people never think to question the ingredient list in spite of  the often unpronounceable names. You might think that if it’s in the shops you can assume it’s safe. But you’d be wrong. Phthalates, (pronounced THAL-ates), a family of chemicals used in cosmetics, may pose significant health risks.

Phthalates are linked to developmental and reproductive health risks.
The cosmetics industry says phthalates are safe, but some companies have removed them from their products in response to public concern.

You'll find them in body lotions, hair sprays, perfumes, and deodorants. They help fragrances to linger, take the stiffness out of hair spray, and prevent nail polish from chipping. You’ll find them in detergents, food packaging, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and plastic toys. Not surprisingly, scientists have found them accumulating in our bodies.

You won’t always find them on the ingredient labels because disclosure such as in perfumes, is not always legally required. It will also surprise you to learn that phthalates have even been found in products made by companies that specifically state that their products do not contain phthalates.

We are finding that regulating agencies such as those in the EU are already starting to ban some Phthalates, especially in cosmetics, but there are still plenty of them out there.

What can you do to reduce your exposure to phthalates? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Avoid storing foods in PVC plastic storage containers. Avoid heating foods in plastic containers in the microwave. Plastic containers can leach chemicals such as phthalates into food.

2. Use organic or certified organic beauty and personal care products. Avoid any products containing synthetic chemicals or synthetic fragrances. Read labels carefully.

3. Select toys that are free of PVC plastic. Some examples of toys that are PVC-free are Legos, Little Tykes, and Early Start. We worry about providing our children with safe toys, i.e., those they cannot hurt themselves with, but we should also be concerned about those that are safe for their health as well.

4. Use plastic wrap that is PVC free.

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