Phthalates - The Nasty Stuff

Phthalates are too common in US products

Phthalates. How do you even say that word?

Not gonna lie, this is a fun one to say out loud. Try it right now. That starting sound is like merging a F with a TH. See if you can say it without spitting... hahahah. Okay enough kidding around, let's talk about this naaaaaaasty ingredient. 

Where do we find Phthalates?

Phthalates are widely used in consumer products in the US, but they've been banned in the European Union. *eye roll for the US laws*  You'll find this nasty little ingredient in color cosmetics, fragranced lotions, body washes, hair care products, and nail polish.

What will we see it called on labels?

On the label, they'll be listed as phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP, and fragrance

Two phthalates are most widely used in personal care products:

1) dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is used in nail polish and is listed by the EU as an endocrine-disrupting compound of high concern. Some companies have phased DBP out of nail products.

2) DEP is widely used in scented products to help the scent linger, although it is rarely found on labels because it is a constituent of the ubiquitous ingredient “fragrance.” A third phthalate, Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) is found in eyelash glue and is widely used in other consumer products.

Loophole called Fragrance

A SIGNIFICANT LOOPHOLE in federal law allows phthalates (and other chemicals) to be added to fragrances without disclosure to consumers. In field research, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics only found phthalates listed as an ingredient in nail polish, but the 2002 report, Not Too Pretty, detected phthalates in nearly three-fourths of tested products. None of the 72 products tested had phthalates listed on the labels. 2008 follow-up testing found that phthalate levels had dropped in some – though not all – of the products tested previously in 2002.

Who does it effect most?

Phthalates are commonly found in human urine samples. An analysis of the 1999-2000 data from the CDC’s National Biomonitoring Program found metabolites of DEP in all 2,540 samples and metabolites of DBP in 99% of samples. The researchers speculate that the high prevalence of DEP is the result of the chemicals’ use in cosmetics and other fragranced products. Levels of DEP metabolites were higher among non-Hispanic blacks, perhaps due to frequent and prolonged use of products marketed specifically to girls and women of color. While levels of DEP have declined over time, disparities in exposure persist. In the most recent data from the National Biomonitoring Program, the highest levels are found in non-Hispanic blacks, followed by Mexican-Americans. Non-hispanic whites have the lowest levels.

What are the dangers of Phthalates?

Health Concerns include Endocrine disruption, developmental & reproductive toxicity, and cancer, among other things. This stuff is NASTY, y'all.

Read the labels on ALL products, and choose options that do not contain DBP. Some nail product labels indicate they are “phthalate-free.” Products that list “fragrance” on the label should be avoided to prevent possible exposure to phthalates. 

Speaking of Fragrance….that’ll be the topic of our last post in this series.  

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