What’s on your label?……A Closer Look at Phthalates

What is it?

Phthalates  (pronounced thā-lates) are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics and make them harder to break.  They are also used as solvents and moisturizing/softening agents in cosmetics and other personal care products.  Phthalates are also what keeps acrylic nail polish durable and flexible. Three phthalates found in personal care products are: 1) dibutyl phthalate (DBP) – commonly used in nail polish 2) Diethyl phthalate (DEP)  – widely used in fragrances to help the scent last longer.  DEP is rarely found on labels because it is an ingredient in included in the term “fragrance.” 3) Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) – widely used in eyelash glue and other plastic consumer products, like wall coverings, tablecloths, floor tiles, furniture upholstery, shower curtains, garden hoses, swimming pool liners, rainwear, baby pants, dolls,  some toys, shoes, automobile upholstery and tops, packaging film and sheets, sheathing for wire and cable, medical tubing, and blood storage bags.


Where can I find it?

Phthalates can be found in a variety of plastic consumer items, color cosmetics and some “fragranced” personal care products, including some soaps, shampoo, hair conditioner, body wash, lotions, moisturizers, creams, perfumes and nail care products.

What’s the concern?

  • Endocrine Disruption – the endocrine system helps regulate bodily functions like: Growth and development, Homeostasis (the internal balance of body systems – temperature, fluid retention, etc.), Metabolism (body energy levels), Reproduction and Response to stress and/or injury.  Examples of hormone disruption include infertility, endometriosis, early puberty, breast and prostate cancer, thyroid disorders, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, ADD, obesity, diabetes, asthma, immune disorders, and more.
  • Reproductive Toxicity – impacts sperm quality, male infertility, male sexual development and may also reduce the level of female sex hormones
  • Cancer – according to The National Toxicology Program and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, DEHP is reasonably to be anticipated to be a human carcinogen and has been shown to cause liver tumors in animals. DBP has been shown to increase breast tumor cells and to make anti-cancer breast treatments less effective.


How can I avoid it?

If you wish to avoid phthalates in your personal care products, watch out for the terms phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP and fragrance listed on the label.








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