Phthalates are chemicals used since the 1950s to soften plastics. They are continuously released into the air, food, or liquid.
How do you and your children become exposed to phthalates?
Ingestion – When babies suck or chew on an object which contains plasticizers, or when a child handles an object then sucks on their fingers. Remove potentially harmful objects from baby’s reach and make sure toys that will be mouthed are safe. Polymer modeling clay also contains phthalates. Adults ingest plasticizers by eating food contained in plastic packaging or drinking from plastic bottles.
Absorption – Phthalates are in many scented and cosmetic products like perfumes, lotions, creams, and powders (including baby products). Women with the highest levels were childbearing age because of their high use of cosmetics. Hospital equipment is made of PVC, even in the NICU and other child care areas. Some hospitals are phasing out the phthalate-containing PVC from neonatal intensive care units.
Inhalation – Dust or fumes from vinyl products such as vinyl flooring, vinyl seats in cars, and some diaper-changing mats.
Recently, the press has declaring how exposure to phthalates during pregnancy reduces children’s IQ. It is important to limit a mom’s exposure to protect her baby from possible low birth weight, fertility, and anatomical abnormalities.
Can you avoid it? You might not be able to eliminate exposure entirely, but you can reduce your family’s exposure by employing the following tips:
Minimize exposure via absorption:
- Limit the amount of baby care products you use, especially for children under the age of eight months. Choose products that are phthalate-free.
- Determine if containers are phthalate-free. Choose personal care products without phthalates or the word “fragrance” on the label. Manufacturers are not required to list phthalates, and they may be included under “fragrance”.
- Visit the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website which lists brand-name products and whether they contain phthalates.
Minimize exposure via ingestion:
- Use glass and stainless steel instead of plastic. When you do buy plastic bottles, make sure they are phthalate-free. Plastic bottles labeled #1, 2, 4, or 5 are considered safer. Those labeled #3, 6, or 7 leach phthalates, BPA and styrene.
- Don’t microwave food in plastic or put plastic containers in the dishwasher. Avoid canned food when possible, as BPA may leach from the lining of the cans, including infant formula.
- Don’t buy vinyl products, especially if they will end up in your baby’s mouth.
Minimize inhalation of phthalates:
- Ventilate well when painting, and make sure your child is not in the area.
- Select non-vinyl shower curtains, raincoats, lawn furniture, and building products when possible.
- Clean often to remove phthalate containing dust on all surfaces. Avoid air fresheners, as most contain phthalates.
In the United States, many manufacturers are voluntarily removing phthalates from items mouthed by babies. The FDA has decided that there is not enough damaging evidence to require regulatory action concerning phthalates. Parents should make informed decisions when selecting products for their children and themselves.
“Phthalates: What you need to know.” Safety at Home. babycenter.com, Mar 2008. Web. 18 Dec 2014.