For years, women have been learning about the numerous numbers of chemicals that are in products that should be avoided during pregnancy. For several years now we’ve been hearing about the mysterious, ubiquitous, and hard-to-spell chemical compounds know as phthalates (pronounced f-THAL-lates), which are used to make plastics flexible and as lubricants in cosmetics. (1) There are several types of phthalates, including: DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate), BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate), and DMP (dimethyl phthalate). (1)
Phthalates are found in flexible plastic and used as lubricants in cosmetics
Label savvy readers know that any chemical you can’t pronounce is most likely not good to ingest or apply to our bodies. For some, however, the question of why still remains. (1)
Several studies have shown grave impacts of exposure to these chemicals. A 2009 study showed that phthalates pass from mother to fetus through the placenta and affect female babies, resulting in abnormal sexual development. The same study reported that phthalate exposure correlated with premature breast development in girls. Other studies have shown that boys exposed to phthalates in the womb show less masculine behavior. Women who are exposed in the work place are 2 to 3 times more likely to deliver boys with reproductive birth defect, hypospadias. A 2007 study should that higher levels of phthalates in the urine of adult males is associated with increased waist circumference and insulin resistance. (1)
A 2014 study showed a correlation between phthalate exposure and children’s IQ. Children whose mothers had the highest levels of chemicals in their body during pregnancy had a much lower IQ at the age of 7.(2)
Studies show that exposure to phthalates is connected with birth defects, sexual development and even children’s IQ!
A new study that surveyed more than 300 women suggests that the exposure to phthalates can also be associated with miscarriage between the 5 and 13 weeks of pregnancy. Out of concern, the U.S. banned phthalates from being used in products made for young children, yet this chemical remains in household paint, medical tubes, vinyl flooring, soaps, shampoos, and other items. (3)
The research team tested urine samples for 132 women who had miscarriages, and 172 healthy pregnant women in China. They found that pregnancy loss was associated with higher levels of phthalate metabolites.(3)
To avoid phthalates follow these guidelines:
- Avoid fragrances: The word fragrance or perfume on a label almost always means phthalates.
- Look at plastic codes: Plastic that is coded with a 3 or 7 contains phthalates.
- Avoid handed down soft plastic children’s toys: Soft flexible children’s toys were made with phthalates until 2009.
- Avoid plastic: If you heat your food in plastic, fattier foods are known to leach chemicals from the plastic. Even phthalate free plastic could still contain harmful chemicals.
- Eat organic produce, meat and dairy: Phthalates are a common ingredient in pesticides.
- Use a water filter: Granular activated carbon filters will remove phthalates that are in water pipes.
- Invest your money in companies that are committed to removing phthalates: There are companies out there working hard to offer healthy alternatives. Seek out the companies and if able, spend money to support better quality products.(1)
It may cost a bit more to avoid these nasty chemicals, but most people would believe it a worthwhile investment in order to avoid the consequences of exposure. If looking to save money, consider DIY projects that allow you to make household cleaners and toiletries at home using common products! Also, consider buying your children fewer toys, bags, and shoes; instead, seek out high quality products.