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10 Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Exposure to Phthalates

What are phthalates?

Phthalates are often called “plasticizers” because they help soften plastic and PVC to help it become more pliable. They’re also used as chemical solvents in pesticides that are sprayed on foods and are commonly used in cosmetic and personal care products.

We consume phthalates in a variety of ways. One of the primary ways is through our food - either it's sprayed on as a pesticide or it's leached in through plastic packaging. We absorb phthalates through our skin when they're used in our personal care products and packaging. Lastly, we ingest phthalates by breathing indoor air and dust. 

Why are phthalates bad?

We love a curious mind that asks, “but why”? We have toddlers so we are very prepared for this type of question. We’ve cited the research at the bottom of this post to back up these claims. Here are the main reasons why phthalates are troublesome:

  • Phthalates can increase occurrences of asthma & eczema in kids.
  • Phthalates can cause problems with thyroid function.
  • Phthalates can contribute to neurotoxicity (damage to brain or peripheral nervous system caused by exposure to toxins).
  • Phthalates can cause male reproductive defects and issues.

10 Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Exposure to Phthalates:

We compiled some of the most impactful ways that you can reduce your child's exposure to phthalates. As parents, we know how difficult it is to avoid phthalates completely. Our hope is that this list of suggestions increases your awareness of how easily phthalates creep into our daily lives and that you can make a one or two adjustments to help reduce exposure.

  1. Feed your kids organic produce and organic, grass-fed meat and dairy. Pesticides and herbicides are full of phthalates that get sprayed onto non-organic produce and corn fed to cows. These types of pesticides and herbicides are not permitted on organic produce or organic animal feed. 
  2. Avoid using anything with “fragrance” listed as an ingredient. This includes any personal care items, household cleaners, laundry detergents, room sprays and beyond. The FDA says the following: “The regulations do not require the listing of the individual fragrance ingredients; therefore, the consumer will not be able to determine from the ingredient declaration if phthalates are present in a fragrance.” 
  3. Get rid of plug-in air fresheners and scented candles in your home. They're are full of fragrance and heating them releases harmful phthalates into the air. 
  4. Use glass, stainless steel, or ceramic to hold and store foods instead of plastics. We recommend against using plastic plates, utensils, and sippy cups even if they are BPA free. While you're at it, toss plastic cutting boards too. 
  5. Do not microwave foods/beverages in plastic. Heat causes plastic to leach toxins. Don't put hot liquids into plastic containers. 
  6. Handwash plastic baby bottles instead of putting them in dishwasher. Dishwasher heat cycles can cause plastic to leach toxins. Consider glass bottles instead of plastic ones.
  7. Avoid plastic packaging in personal care products. Plastic containers typically contain phthalates which can easily leach into the product contents - especially, if they contain essential oils. Little Love Organics skincare products are housed exclusively in glass containers for this very reason.
  8. Don’t let your kids play with cheap plastic tchotchkes. In other words, that plastic toy that comes with a Happy Meal or that random give-away trinket from a conference attended. Cheap plastic is full of phthalates.
  9. Avoid anything made with vinyl. Vinyl contains phthalates to make it so flexible and strong. It's commonly used in changing pads, bibs, play mats, shower curtains, mattress protectors, rain gear. Opt for vinyl-free alternatives. If you have vinyl floors, vacuum frequently and consider an area rug if your child crawls across those areas.
  10. Vacuum and wet dust frequently to minimize dust that may contain these chemicals. Consider a no shoes policy in your home to minimize tracking in chemicals as well. 

Research on the Impact of Phthalates:

Asthma & Eczema Research:

  • Just, A. C., Whyatt, R. M., Perzanowski, M. S., Calafat, A. M., Perera, F. P., Goldstein, I. F., … & Miller, R. L. (2012). Prenatal exposure to butylbenzyl phthalate and early eczema in an urban cohort. Environmental health perspectives, 120(10), 1475-1480.
  • Jaakkola, J. J., & Knight, T. L. (2008). The role of exposure to phthalates from polyvinyl chloride products in the development of asthma and allergies: a systematic review and metaanalysis. Environ Health Perspect, 116(7), 845-53.
  • Bornehag, C. G., & Nanberg, E. (2010). Phthalate exposure and asthma in children. International journal of andrology, 33(2), 333-345.
  • North, M. L., Takaro, T. K., Diamond, M. L., & Ellis, A. K. (2014). Effects of phthalates on the development and expression of allergic disease and asthma. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 112(6), 496-502.

Thyroid Function Disruption Research:

  • Shen, O., Wu, W., Du, G., Liu, R., Yu, L., Sun, H., … & Song, L. (2011). Thyroid disruption by Di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) and mono-n-butyl phthalate (MBP) in Xenopus laevis. PloS one, 6(4), e19159-e19159.
  • Boas, M., Frederiksen, H., Feldt-Rasmussen, U., Skakkebæk, N. E., Hegedus, L., Hilsted, L., … & Main, K. M. (2010). Childhood exposure to phthalates: associations with thyroid function, insulin-like growth factor I, and growth. Environ Health Perspect, 118(10), 1458-1464.
  • Boas, M., Feldt-Rasmussen, U., & Main, K. M. (2012). Thyroid effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Molecular and cellular endocrinology,355(2), 240-248.

Neurotoxicity Research:

  • Cho, S. C., Bhang, S. Y., Hong, Y. C., Shin, M. S., Kim, B. N., Kim, J. W., … & Kim, H. W. (2010). Relationship between environmental phthalate exposure and the intelligence of school-age children. Environmental health perspectives, 1027-1032.
  • Holahan, M. R., & Smith, C. A. (2015). Phthalates and neurotoxic effects on hippocampal network plasticity. Neurotoxicology, 48, 21-34.

Male Reproductive Issue Research:

  • Hoppin, J. A. (2003). Male reproductive effects of phthalates: an emerging picture. Epidemiology, 14(3), 259-260.
  • Barlow, N. J., Mcintyre, B. S., & Foster, P. M. (2004). Male reproductive tract lesions at 6, 12, and 18 months of age following in utero exposure to di (n-butyl) phthalate. Toxicologic pathology, 32(1), 79-90.
  • Main, K. M., Mortensen, G. K., Kaleva, M. M., Boisen, K. A., Damgaard, I. N., Chellakooty, M., … & Andersson, A. M. (2006). Human breast milk contamination with phthalates and alterations of endogenous reproductive hormones in infants three months of age. Environmental health perspectives, 270-276.


Content from the Little Love Organics website and blog is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this website is intended for general consumer understanding and entertainment only. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.