EWG October, 2007-Caution: These
household items may feminize baby boys
. . and they're unhealthy for you, too. Phthalates are the
Phtha-what, you ask?
Phthalates are common industrial chemicals. They've been
around since the 1930's, making vinyl out of hard plastics,
acting as solvents, and contributing to the "fragrance" of many
personal care products. The Centers for Disease Control tested
289 people in 2000, and found phthalates in all of their blood
at surprisingly high levels. High phthalate levels have been
linked to decreased sperm motility and concentration and altered
hormone levels in adult men; in a recent study of 134 newborn
boys and their mothers, researchers found distinct differences
in the reproductive systems of the boys whose mothers had the
highest phthalate levels during pregnancy. Further research
revealed that those moms' phthalate levels weren't uncommon --
in fact, an estimated one quarter of American women would have
similarly high phthalate levels.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to limit your exposure.
six seven common sources of phthalate
in the home, and what you can do to avoid them.
- Nail polish: Dibutyl phthalate
is often used to make nail polish chip-resistant. Look for
it on the ingredients list, where it may be shortened to DBP.
- Plastics in the kitchen: Take a
critical eye to your cupboards. Phthalates may be more
likely to leach out of plastic when it's heated, so avoid
cooking or microwaving in plastic.
- Vinyl toys: Phthalates are what make
vinyl (PVC) toys soft, so don't give them to children. Opt
instead for wooden and other phthalate-free toys, especially
during that age when they put everything in their mouths!
- Paint: Paints and other hobby products
may contain phthalates as solvents, so be sure to use them
in a well-ventilated space.
- Fragrance: Diethyl phthalate (DEP)
is often used as part of the "fragrance" in some products.
Since DEP won't be listed separately, you're better off
choosing personal care products, detergents, and cleansers
that don't have the word "fragrance" on the ingredients
- Vinyl: Vinyl shows up in a lot of
different products; lawn furniture, garden hoses, building
materials, and items of clothing (like some raincoats) are
often sources. Aside from carefully choosing materials when
you're making purchases, there is one easy change you can
make: switch to a non-vinyl shower curtain. That "new shower
curtain" smell (you know the one) is a result of chemical
off-gassing, and it means your shower curtain is a source of
phthalates in your home.
- Air Fresheners: New research from the
NRDC demonstrates that, just like fragrances in personal
most air fresheners contain phthalates . That even goes
for the ones labeled "fragrance free." NRDC suggests that
you open your windows and use fans to circulate air and keep
Source: EWG's EnviroBlog
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