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Toxic Thursdays: All About Phthalates

You look at that word—phthalates—and your eyes and brain do not connect. What exactly does that say? It just looks wrong!

Phthalates (THAL ates) are known endocrine disruptors. They are linked with birth defects, breast cancer, infertility, liver cancer, diabetes, obesity, autism, and ADHD.

Manufacturers use phthalates to make hard plastic more flexible. Phthalates mimic the hormones found in humans and animals, so they trick the body into thinking there is more estrogen than there is. This is especially harmful for pregnant women, because it can lead to birth defects, and is harmful to children because their bodies are smaller and chemicals have a larger impact on them.

  • Some researchers believe phthalates are responsible for early puberty in girls younger than 10! They have also been blamed for birth defects in boys, including penis deformities.
  • Besides being commonly found in plastics, phthalates are also found in sunscreens, perfumes, lotions, and other beauty products like shampoos.
  • Several states and the European Union have banned the use of phthalates, and Walmart and Toys R Us have banned its use in children’s toys.

What the What are Phthalates?

So how do you know if one of your products at home has phthalates? Well, that is the tricky part. Phthalates are not generally listed in the ingredients. Often, they are hidden behind the term “Fragrance.”

Hopefully by now you are reading more and more labels. If you are like me, you started reading food labels because you wanted to protect yourself and your family from what was going into your bodies. But, what about the stuff going on your skin?

Skin does absorb a lot of what we put on it, so that means those chemicals are also entering our bloodstream. Yikes!

Phthalates are one of the top chemicals to avoid on my list because they can lead to so many problems. Manufacturers need to stop hiding these chemicals under seemingly innocuous words like Fragrance. And, as we all know, the only way to get manufacturers to change anything is to vote with our dollars and not buy their second-rate products.

There are phthalate-free products out there. You just have to look and do your research. I’ve found some good shampoos that are labeled phthalate-free. Here are a few that I’ve tried and liked.

  • Tot Logic. Tot Logic was created by a mom who was sick of putting chemicals on her children. She came up with this line of products—shampoo and body wash—that are completely free of sulfates, parabens, and those yucky phthalates. We have used both the shampoo and the body wash and enjoyed both. At $14 for a small shampoo they are a bit pricey, but my hair was great while using them.
  • Little Twig. Little Twig has a line of products for babies and children that are phthalate free as well as paraben-free, sulfate-free, and free of nuts, wheat and soy. The shampoos, body wash, and lotions come in scented and unscented. We used the Little Twig Baby Wash—Tangerine and the Little Twig Unscented Baby Lotion. The baby wash had a very light scent that I enjoyed and the baby lotion doesn’t seem to upset baby’s skin at all.
  • Babyganics. Babyganics' product line features shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, etc. It is one of the largest lines that is phthalate free. I have liked their sunscreen, but I do not really like their shampoo. We have used the foaming fun shampoo and it is fragrance free, as well as phthalate-free, paraben and sulfate free, etc., but it doesn’t seem to clean very well. The foam is a nice feature, but I feel I use twice or three times as much to get the job done. I’d rather just use a liquid soap.
  • Babo Moisturizing Baby Shampoo and Wash. This is what I am currently using in my home for my kids. It smells amazing! The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates it as a 1 on the Skin Deep database, meaning it is extremely safe. Did I mention it smells great? It is probably the calendula. Babo makes a wide range of kid products, including sunscreen. I feel like this shampoo foams up enough for me to feel like it is really cleaning. This one is also available via Amazon’s Subscribe and Save… just saying!

And, that’s my list.

Have you tried any of these—what were your thoughts? Did you find other brands/products that you like?

Share in the comments!



Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Fact Sheet:

Rachel Mavity

Rachel Mavity

Rachel Mavity is the Digital Communications Coordinator with Beebe Healthcare's Marketing and Communications Department. On Toxic Thursdays, she writes about saving the earth and ways to reduce our footprint. She also now blogs over at Be Real on this site.