Phthalates are plastic softeners used to make something less brittle. Because these chemicals are not tightly bound to the other molecules in the plastic, they often “migrate,” moving from the plastic and finding their way into our bodies.
Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that are linked to reproductive malformations in baby boys, reduced fertility, developmental disorders, asthma, and increased allergic reactions. They’ve also been identified by Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks) as “a prime example of chemicals of emerging concern to brain development.”
These chemicals have been banned from cosmetics in the European Union, and some phthalates were banned from children’s toys in the U.S. in 2008. Unfortunately, phthalates are still so commonly used in U.S. products that studies show that these chemicals are present in the urine of 99% of people tested.
BPA & BPA Substitutes
The most famous toxic chemical in plastics is Bisphenol-A, or BPA, which is a hormone disruptor linked to a whole host of health problems. The good news is that the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and children’s sippy cups in 2012. However, it’s likely still found in many other plastics.
The bad news is that studies are showing that its replacement BPS, another chemical in the Bisphenol family, may be toxic as well, showing some of the same hormone-disrupting effects as BPA. In addition to BPA and BPS, studies show that plastics leech synthetic estrogen mimickers into the food or liquids stored inside them, which are linked to cancer, infertility, heart disease, and other health problems.
Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is widely known as the most toxic plastic for health and the environment. In its production, it releases dioxins, phthalates, vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, lead, cadmium and other toxic chemicals. It can leech many of these harmful chemicals into the water or food it’s being used to contain, which is how those chemicals get into our bodies.
The good news is that there are lots of options out there for reducing the amount of plastic you and your family come into contact with. And remember that every step you take to get rid of toxic chemicals can have a positive impact on your health by reducing your “body burden”, or the amount of chemicals present in your body.
Some ideas to start:
- Opt for stainless steel bottles, like these from Pura Stainless that can work for the whole family, from babies to kids to adults.
- Look for food products stored in glass over plastic and store leftovers at home in glass or ceramic containers as well.
- Avoid plastic labeled with the recycle symbol #3 is made of PVC.
- Try not to heat food or liquids in plastic or pouches. High heat allows plastic to leech chemicals faster.
- For more good ideas on avoiding plastic, check out My Plastic-Free Life.