A health concern to most scientists and at the forefront of health news and controversies is the increasing concerns over phthalates and their effect on our health. If you’re like me and have heard the term but aren’t sure what it exactly means, the best way is to define the word itself. Phthalates are components of phthalic acid that are added to plastics to soften them, making them more durable and bendable. They are known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals and can be found in anything from cosmetics to vinyl flooring, household cleaners, shampoo, soaps, toothbrushes, toys, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, hairspray, and perfumes, to name a few. Even household dust has been found to contain phthalates. After a study done in the early 2000s, the FDA has kept a close eye on phthalates used in cosmetic products. What does all this mean for us? What should we be looking for in the products that we use?
A Closer Look Into Phthalates
In 2003 the CDC began a thorough investigation into phthalates and human exposure. Two senators took an interest in these studies and ended up including a ban of certain phthalates in children’s products in a 2008 Consumer Products Safety Bill legislation, which put the Consumer Products Safety Commission on high alert, steering them to take a closer look at the chemicals used in products. The attention has brought about significant changes, resulting in the formation of the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel on Phthalates (CHAP).
Phthalates register as endocrine disruptors to the human body. Some health risks and concerns linked to phthalate exposure:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Breast cancer
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Reproductive Issues
- Thyroid function
Health Risks To Young Children
Children are at a higher level of exposure and are more susceptible to phthalates because of their growth rate and development. Risks of phthalates for young children:
- Effects the levels of reproductive hormones
- Thyroid function
- Obesity among school-age children
- Effects height and weight
- Respiratory health
- Social behavior impairment
- Type II Diabetes, insulin resistance
- Higher systolic blood pressure
- Respiratory Issues: Allergies, asthma
Learn Everything You Can
The alarming concern about phthalates and their potential health impacts on humans is not a new crusade. Many countries are aware of the dangers and are proactively trying to enforce and prohibit the use of harmful phthalates in their products. Europe, Japan, the United States, Australia, and China have instituted restrictions about toxic phthalates, with many more under study and review. In my research, the list of harmful phthalates is so incredibly long; I couldn’t even begin to start listing them; it would turn into a novel. I highly recommend you research phthalates and take an active interest in the products you use. You want to avoid items packaged with recycling code three plastic, any items that say fragrance with no explanation of ingredients, and opt for things packaged in glass that are certified organic. In most cases, this one especially, knowledge is power. Do your research and be aware of what’s in the items you use, what they are packaged in, and be especially aware of what is in your children’s hands and their exposure to things you probably never considered as harmful. The investigation into phthalates has just begun, and there’s still a long way to go.
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